Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway

Title: The Metropolis Case
Author: Matthew Gallaway

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Contemporary / Queer)

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: Yes - I even brought on vacation with me so I wouldn't be interrupted!
One-sentence summary: Four individuals are shaped -- personally, professionally -- by Wagner's Tristan & Isolde.

Why did I get this book?: Opera! Historical! Gay!
Reading Challenges:
Source: TLC Book Tours

Do I like the cover?: Very much so -- it's striking and clever and fits very much the story.

I'm reminded of...: Yann Martel, Michael Cunningham, Joanne Harris.

First line: S--news!--your elder brother has procured four tickets to the opera on the Saturday night of your visit next month AND invitations to the after-party at Demoiselles, an old and rather exquisite French restaurant not far from Lincoln Center.

Did... I find myself missing Pittsburgh as I read?: YES!  I spent my formative teen years in Pittsburgh, near the suburb featured so predominantly in this novel.  I was totally taken back!

Did... I wish I had Tristan & Isolde to listen to while I read?: YES!  Find it -- it's a treat to hear, regardless, but especially when you hear something referred to by the characters.

Review:  I have friends who are involved -- professionally -- in the opera world so I was immediately attracted to this novel.  I'm not a singer nor a musician, and my interest in opera is based on seeing my friends perform, followed by an appreciation for the history of opera and the fantastical plotlines opera employs.  Although this is a novel loosely oriented around Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, I don't think one needs to be an opera fan or musician to appreciate it.

This novel was surprising to me in that the jacket blurb lend me to believe it would be a historical novel more in the vein of Tracy Chevalier, perhaps literally following the characters through various productions Tristan & Isolde.  Instead, the story follows four people as they follow their passions -- personally and professionally -- and weather intense emotional traumas.  In particular, Martin -- the strongest character and story line, in my opinion -- lives through 9/11 in what was one of the first fictional renderings I've read of that day.  It was startling and moving and felt very autobiographical.

The thing that kept me at 'like' rather than 'love' was the strong distance I felt in the narrative.  All four main characters struggled with intense personal traumas and huge emotional canvasses, and yet, at all times I felt very much at arm's length.  I don't know if this was intentional -- a novelistic rendering of audience (reader) and performer (character) -- but the effect was enough that I felt a bit like I was learning gossip third hand about friends of friends.  

There's a whiff of some magical realism that came so late in the novel it felt a bit jarring but it's not entirely unwelcome, and I rather wish it had been introduced earlier in the book.  The four main characters eventually all come together in a single plot line that strains credulity yet feels very satisfying; I'm reminded a bit of the over-the-top plot lines in most operas.

In the end, this is a promising debut and I'm really excited to see Matthew Gallaway's future novels.  


  1. Oh I love Joanne Harris, and I am enjoying Michael Cunningham's latest right now, so this sounds like something for me, thanks!

  2. I just purchased this book over the weekend and it's in the mail. Can't wait to read it. Nice Review! Happy Reading!

  3. Very nice review! I'm so sorry it took me so long to get over here to read it, but I just wanted you to know that we're so glad you enjoyed the book. Thank you very much for being on the tour!