Love in the Years of Lunacy by Mandy Sayer is a moving, tender and compelling story of forbidden love set amid the devastation of war.
Love in the Years of Lunacy Synopsis
Sydney, 1942. Pearl is eighteen, beautiful and impetuous. She plays saxophone in an all-girl jazz band at the Trocadero and occasionally sits in on underground gigs with her twin brother Martin, who also plays the sax. On one such evening, black GI and jazz legend James Washington blows into her life, and nothing is ever the same again, especially not Pearl. A love story begins to unfold against the blacked-out nights and rumour-filled days of a city in the grip of war.
But public events are closing in on Pearl’s private world. When James is shipped out to fight in New Guinea, she hatches a breathtaking plan to reunite with him. And then all hell breaks loose.
Moving, tender and audaciously original, Love in the Years of Lunacy is a love story with a haunting jazz soundtrack and a war story like no other.
(Allen and Unwin, 2011)
Genre: Action-Adventure, Thriller, Romance, Audio, Historical
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Before reading Love in the Years of Lunacy, I am ashamed to say I had never heard of Australian author Mandy Sayer. When browsing my library’s online audiobook catalogue it was the cover art that initially attracted me to this novel — simple and understated, yet wistful. Thank you to whomever decided upon this book cover because if not for that, I would have so easily not discovered this gem of a novel.
I find some of the most compelling and engaging fiction is that which is spun within a factual historical framework. Although the tale itself may take considerable liberties the historical context provides a credible launching pad. The extent to which a reader is subsequently willing to suspend belief comes down to the talent of the storyteller. In this instance, the storyteller’s talent is considerable.
Historical fiction can also provide powerful messaging. In Love in the Years of Lunacy Mandy Sayer reminds us of the racial inequity and small-mindedness that existed such a short time ago in our own society, and the powerlessness that was felt by many due to arbitrary decisions made by those in positions of authority. An intense sense of longing and injustice is juxtaposed with dark comedic elements, a reminder of the strength of human spirit.
In Love in the Years of Lunacy Mandy Sayer delivers a moving and tender story that exudes true class.
Mandy Sayer clearly has a great love of music and conveyed beautifully the joy and sense of accomplishment mastering an instrument can provide. She really tapped into the emotions music can evoke, writing almost lovingly about her characters to the extent that their plight felt so raw and real. Protagonist Pearl’s strength and identity develops as her mastery of the saxophone does.
I devoured the audiobook version with gusto. Australian narrator Kate Hood’s delivery is crisp, clear and emotive in just the right doses.
Love in the Years of Lunacy by Mandy Sayer is a title that truly deserves greater exposure. Highly recommended.
BOOK RATING: The Story 5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5 – Overall 4.75
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More historical fiction:
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton / The War Widow by Tara Moss / Oscar & Lucinda by Peter Carey / The Philosopher’s Daughters by Alison Booth / The Port Fairy Murders by Robert Gott
About the Author, Mandy Sayer
Mandy Sayer won the Australian-Vogel Award in 1989 for her novel Mood Indigo. She has written five works of fiction, edited one anthology (with another due for publication later this year), and written two memoirs, Dreamtime Alice, which won the 2000 National Biography Award and Velocity, which won the Age Non-Fiction Prize. She lives in Sydney.