In Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa, a new and enticing voice in fiction draws readers through the streets of Paris and New York on an intricate adventure.
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Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa Synopsis:
What writer Benjamin Constable needs is a real-life adventure wilder than his rampant imagination. And who better to shake up his comfortable Englishman-in-Paris routine than the enigmatic Tomomi “Butterfly” Ishikawa, who has just sent a cryptic suicide note?
She’s planted a slew of clues — in the pages of her journal, on the hard drive of her computer, tucked away in public places, under flowerpots, and behind statues. Heartbroken, confused, and accompanied by an imaginary cat, Ben embarks upon a scavenger hunt leading to charming and unexpected spaces, from the hidden alleys of Paris to the cobblestone streets of New York City.
But Butterfly’s posthumous messages are surprisingly well informed for the words of a dead person, and they’re full of confessions of a past darkened by insanity, betrayal, and murder. The treasures Ben is unearthing are instalments of a gruesome memoir. Now he must draw a clear line between the real and surreal if he is to save himself, Butterfly, and what remains of their crazy and amazing friendship.
(Gallery Books – Simon & Schuster, 2013)
Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa by Benjamin Constable is a puzzle not for the faint hearted, both in construction and its subject matter. It is challenging but in the main, rewarding reading.
From the opening lines narrated by the author Benjamin Constable himself, you just know it’s going to get complicated and fast.
‘I’d like to write a book where the two main characters are me and you.’ I said to Tomomi Ishikawa, and absentmindedly organised the objects on the table.
‘Oh good,’ she said, and started to cough.
I am a sucker for a puzzle though and put my mind at the mercy of whatever Constable had to offer. In a similar vein to Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller, at the forefront The Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa is a novel about the act of both writing and composing fiction and the mysterious relationship between author and audience.
And if the reason for my writing is still enigmatically shrouded in drivel, what I imagine is becoming clearer is my method for postponing the inevitable. As well you know, I have long taken shameless pleasure in the avoidance of the crux of any matter. “The point” is so often a delicacy to be savoured, its anticipation a tantalizing delight, teasing its way closer with agonizing lethargy, in its every delay a mounting of the tension and a prolongation of the bliss.
However, what I have to say is important and sadly carries with it little pleasure. (Parenthetically, this style of never getting to the point is in some ways an appropriate reflection of our friendship. We are neither of us a stranger to the eternal flow of conversation, twisting its way across the floodplain, dallying in the shallows, splashing over small rocks, resting calm in deep pools, spinning in eddies and forming unlikely currents, because the experience of the journey has been the joy, and to reach the ocean is to signal the end.
While the prose was undeniably beautiful and penetrating in places, I did find the frequency and length of the introspective passages draining at times.
Within this story however lies a complex detective plot which I enjoyed most – at its simplest a scavenger hunt of sorts, at its more complex, a bed of subterfuge and thrilling deception.
Elements within Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa, both characters and events, in addition to the storyline itself can only be described as audacious. The macabre described with sociopathic indifference is confronting but compelling.
Benjamin Constable set himself a very ambitious goal in penning Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa. The execution was sublime in places but a little strained in others, but it was unfailingly surprising – a unique work from an exciting new talent.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
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Genre: Literature, Drama, Crime-Detective
About the Author, Benjamin Constable
Benjamin Constable was born in Bristol and grew up mostly in Derby. He lives in Paris where he writes fiction and teaches English. Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa is his first novel. Check out Benjamin’s website.
Other reviews of Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa
* Receiving this title free from Gallery Books via NetGalley did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions in the review above.Updated
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