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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal by Sean Dixon

The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal
Publisher: Other Press
ISBN: 1590513126
Pages: 304 pgs
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge

Publisher’s Description:

The girls of the Lacuna Cabal Montreal Young Women’s Book Club are at a crossroads. One of their founding members is dead, they’ve made a few unfortunate compromises to their membership, some of them aren’t getting any younger, and they’ve been stuck on a single weepy tome for six long months. Resident maverick Runner Coghill decides to shake things up by introducing a cherished family heirloom to the group — ten pristine stone tablets, carved in cuneiform, telling the oldest story in the world: The Epic of Gilgamesh. Because their new book is written in an ancient language, the group must take the unprecedented step of allowing Runner to translate the whole story for them. But Runner’s narration is not of a common vein. Before they know it, the Cabalists have been thrust out to sea, on a journey in search of answers that extends halfway across the world to the war-torn land of this oldest story’s birth.

The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal is an offbeat rites-of-passage novel whose characters live out literature with ferocity and passion. It is a funny, quixotic debut that follows the members of a shallow, squabbling, time-wasting, protracted-adolescent book club as they find themselves transformed through the alchemy of the storyteller’s art.

My Review:

Usually when one finds a book about a group of female friends, the reader can expect a light read. Something that will be fun and enjoyable and require the least investment of mental energy. This is what I was expecting when I began The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal. I was completely mistaken.

It was quite confusing to start with. I was expecting something completely different from what I got. I was not disappointed by the surprise but it was jarring to start with. Once I got into it, I really liked it a lot. The writing style was different to say the least. Different in this case does not mean bad by any form of the imagination. I am usually not a big fan of the more experimental writing styles but I found that this was an exception. It the hands of a less talented writer “different”  would have not worked so well but in Sean Dixon’s it resulted in a really great book.

I really liked most of the characters. The only one I really could not make a connection with was Runner.  She seemed a bit abrasive to  me. The other women in the book club were much more my speed.  Strangely, the boys in the novel were my favorites. Cory, Du and Neil were funny, smart and aware. They seemed to know the women in the Lacuna Cabal were crazy but just went along with them because they couldn’t help being caught up in the whirlwind.

I also found myself over thinking the symbolism in The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal as I am likely to do with books like this. I am probably very off on my interpretation but I like theorizing, so bear with me. Iraq seemed to a specter in the background. The book they are reading is The Epic of Gilgamesh which takes place in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), the blog that Aline reads (The Baghdad Blogger by Salam Pax) and constant mentions of the escalating war in Iraq (even though the women in the group seem to brush it off as unimportant most of the time). I found it interesting that the only member of the Lacuna Cabal who thought the war was an important issue was Aline. She seemed the most aware of the world around her. The other women tend to dismiss any type of conversation that they find unpleasant or frightening. They barricade themselves in their book club and very rarely look beyond. But yet, they can’t completely barricade themselves because the world will still happen around them even though they ignore it.

I really liked this book. It was slightly more complex than I was prepared for but it was worth the extra mental energy expended and I think it is definitely worth a read. I am in the middle of the summer doldrums of the brain right now and this really helped me break out of it.
*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.


  1. You're right about the way you describe how the LC members barricade themselves from the world. I haven't seen anyone describe this quality of the book before. So thank you. My only quibble is I'm not sure I'd use the term 'symbolism' for it. But, then again, I'm not sure what word I'd use instead.

    Also, your observation about expecting the tone of the book to be lighter has given me some insight into the manner in which the book has been received in certain quarters. So thanks for that too.


    Sean Dixon
    Alleged Author
    The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal

  2. Sean,

    I was quite flummoxed about the word "symbolism" myself. It didn't seem right when I was writing but I couldn't think of anything better. When the word comes to me, I will do some editing. I hate it when the English language abandons me.

    Thanks for commenting on my review.


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