Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Underground Fugue by Margot Singer

In a London neighborhood, the lives of four characters quickly become entangled over a few months in 2005. Esther has fled her marriage and life in New York to care for her mother, Lonia, as she battles cancer. As the disease takes hold, Lonia begins to spend more and more of her time in a dream-like state, remembering her escape from Czechoslovakia at the beginning of WWII. Next door is Javad Asghari, a neurosurgeon who fled Iran as a young man to escape the ayatollah’s fundamentalist regime. Javad’s 19-year-old son Amir is a college student struggling to find himself and reconcile his Iranian heritage and British upbringing. Over the long summer Esther and Javad form a friendship that has a possibility of blossoming into romance. When the London Underground is bombed by Islamic fundamentalists, Esther must make a decision that will change her, Javad, and Amir’s lives forever. 

A musical fugue is a piece of music where a musical theme is repeated or imitated throughout the piece by multiple voices, with the parts building onto and weaving in and out of sync with one another. In psychology, a fugue is a dissociation or loss of the self. In her debut novel, Margot Singer masterfully reflects both definitions in one unforgettable story. The fugue theme is prevalent throughout without feeling heavy-handed or forced. It is easy to see the differences among these four characters, and yet their lives are often reflections of one another’s. With plenty of tension and intrigue, Underground Fugue is a stark look at loneliness and isolation that reads like a thriller.

-Portia Kapraun

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