The Lola Quartet

-written by Book Club Member, Nina Earley

Due to some last minute circumstances our book club this month was smaller and lacked our fearless leaders Marika and Miranda. The four of us who remained decided to continue nonetheless, and an interesting, if somewhat looser, discussion ensued. A few members of a different book club, meeting at the same time and place (the same table even) inadvertently tried to join our discussion, but soon realized that Neil Gaiman had very little to do with The Lola Quartet (we did, ultimately, win the book club battle, our discussion lasted longer than theirs).

We jumped right in with general opinions about the book overall. Two of us had read, and very much enjoyed, Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, which we read for this book club a few months ago, and two of us had not. This framed the beginning of the discussion a bit at first. Those of us who had read Station Eleven enjoyed that book more. The character development in The Lola Quartet is not as evolved as in her later book. Despite this slight drawback, we all agree that Emily St. John Mandel’s writing is superb. One of the quotes we all enjoyed is: “He drove to a part of the suburbs that was close up against the edge of the wilderness, although it had occurred to Gavin that what he thought of as wilderness might just be a band of wildly lush greenery with another suburb approaching undetected from the other side, like two teams of miners tunneling toward one another under the earth.” We spent a bit of time discussing the lack of opinion stated by sentences like this one. Is St. John Mandel trying to allow the reader to make an opinion of his or her own, or is there another reason for not slanting statements like this one negatively or positively?

We spoke about the lack of agency the characters in this book seem to have, possibly a character trait that shows their young age, and some of us wished a few of them were able to take more credit for their actions. Several of the characters, notably Gavin and Jack, seemed to coast through their twenties without much reaction or ambition. It became apparent that the characters who had concrete plans after high school were not able to achieve the things they set out to do, for one reason or another, while the one person who had no plan at all, turned out to be the most on track.

Another interesting point was the importance of the book title, The Lola Quartet, which in the story was named for the German film “Run, Lola, Run”. Only some of us have seen the film, but we think the film might be quite significant to the way this story unfolds. The film plot explores possible outcomes based on minor changes in events, a bit of a “what if…” exploration that remains open to the reader in the character relationships of The Lola Quartet.

Ultimately, if you haven’t read any Emily St. John Mandel, we think this one may be more enjoyable without previous knowledge of her later works, but either way, make sure to pick up at least one of her books.

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