Love in the Years of Lunacy Synopsis
Sydney, 1942. Pearl is 18, 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. (Audible)
Before reading Love in the Years of Lunacy, I am ashamed to say I had never heard of Australian author Mandy Sayer, and so 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 has 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.
In the audiobook version I devoured with gusto, Australian narrator Kate Hood‘s delivery is crisp and 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 recommend for the ladies.
BOOK RATING: The Story 5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5
Genre: Action-Adventure, Thriller, Romance, Audio, Historical
Author Information: Mandy Sayer won the Vogel Award at 26, with her first novel, Mood Indigo. Since then she has been named one of Australia’s Best Young Novelists by the Sydney Morning Herald and has published the novels Blind Luck, The Cross, and The Night has a Thousand Eyes, which won the 2008 Davitt Award for Young Adult Fiction, and the short story collection Fifteen Kinds of Desire.
Sayer’s first memoir, Dreamtime Alice, about the years she spent tap dancing on the streets with her jazz drummer father in New York and New Orleans, won the 2000 National Biography Award, Australian Audio Book of the Year Award, and New England Booksellers’ Award in the U.S. It was published to critical acclaim in the U.S. and U.K. and was translated into several European languages. Her second memoir, Velocity, a prequel about her childhood, won the 2006 South Australian Premier’s Award for Non-Fiction and the 2006 Age Book of the Year (Non-Fiction).
Mandy Sayer is a columnist for the Australian, the Sydney magazine, The Wentworth Courier, and regularly writes articles and book reviews for major publications, including The Spectator, Australian Literary Review, The Age, The Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Monthly.
Sayer has a BA and MA from Indiana University, and a Doctorate from the University of Technology, Sydney. She lives in Sydney with her husband, playwright and author Louis Nowra, and her beloved Chihuahua, aspiring model and actress, Coco.