Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa — Review

June 23, 2013

Note: I received a free e-galley of Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa  by Benjamin Constable via NetGalley.

It seems unfair, insubstantial, to call this book a “page turner.” In fact it grabs you with its elaborate story, suggesting you back out now while there’s still a chance, while simultaneously beckoning with its siren song of intrigue and adventure.

Our narrator and protagonist (and author), Ben Constable, is an English would-be writer and bank employee living in Paris. His enigmatic American friend Tomomi Ishikawa, better known as Butterfly, is just that really — an enigma. She is fun and adventurous and dark and twisty, while our boy Ben — though perhaps a tad peculiar and a little bit of a cynic — is mostly innocent and purer of heart than he should be as an aspiring writer living the Parisian life.

But I digress.

This book is first and foremost about imagination. Ben’s and Butterfly’s and how they imagine the world and their places in it.

It is at times touching, hysterical, horrific, and heart-rending. It leaves you with unanswered questions and confusion that somehow only bring you closer to the characters.

I hesitate to call this book a “page turner,” but I fear that I have no choice. The fact of the matter is that while reading this there is no desire, no thought, to disengage. Pages keep turning and you keep reading, but even when it’s over it doesn’t feel quite like it’s finished. That inability to disengage remains even though the story is done.

And that’s generally the mark of a good book. The characters, the story, the interplay between reality and the imagined — all of these combine to make a superb read that you won’t want to put down.

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