Review: Q

Posted 12 February, 2012 by Lianne in Books / 1 Comment

By: Evan Mandery

“Q, Quentina Elizabeth Deveril, is the love of my life.”

Shortly before his wedding, the unnamed hero of this uncommon romance is visited by a man who claims to be his future self and ominously admonishes him that he must not marry the love of his life, Q. At first the protagonist doubts this stranger, but in time he becomes convinced of the authenticity of the warning and leaves his fiancee. The resulting void in his life is impossible to fill. One after the other, future selves arrive urging him to marry someone else, divorce, attend law school, leave law school, travel, join a running club, stop running, study the guitar, the cello, Proust, Buddhism, and opera, and eliminate gluten from his diet. The only constants in this madcap quest for personal improvement are his love for his New York City home and for the irresistible Q.

I think this book came to my attention during one of my many wanderings on GoodReads. Coming off the series 3 finale of Misfits (if you watched it, you know what I’m talking about ^_~) and my interest on the subject of time travel in literature, I knew I had to check it out. I did not expect to finish this novel so quickly but I could not put it down! Contains some spoilers ahead!

To be honest, it’s rather difficult to describe this book. If I go by the book description, it’s not just a love story or an adventure about time travel or a novel about figuring out what to do with one’s life and how to improve oneself. Rather, it’s all of these elements and then some. Q is this massive, interconnected mash-up of all of these themes and events revolving around the protagonist’s (we never learn his name) life and the choices he makes as an individual. If anything, the time travel element ultimately serves the purpose of posing the following question: if you knew what was going to happen and had the means to change it, would you do it? The time travel element also reinforces certain inner doubts and insecurities that everyone has, as was emphasised as the protagonist’s future selves kept appearing in his life after the initial I-60.

To aid in this adventure/examination of this particular character’s life and choices, the author uses a myriad of pop culture references, philosophical musings, academic iniquries and creative delving to portray the various things zipping through the protagonist’s head. This kaleidoscope of cultural and social elements also reveals much about the protagonist himself and how complex, well-informed and introspective he is. In other novels, this mesh of different ideas, themes and references would have been perceived as a hot mess so to speak–and indeed at times the novel did feel as though the plot was going off on a tangent–but in the case of Q, all of this information makes sense. The unnamed narrator effectively embodies all of these floating aspects, rifles through, reflects and quotes on them. He may come off as pretentious at times, especially as he relates to certain abstract ideas and issues and uses words that one normally does not hear in everyday speech, but he is an academic; maybe we all sound like that. It informs his personality more than anything. He is ultimately a well-rounded character with his own quirks and faults; I found myself understanding this man and rooting for him throughout the novel.

In terms of plotting and pace, the novel does start off relatively slow, but this was necessary in order to set up the story and the importance of Q in the protagonist’s life. With all of the various references and personal reflections that were weaving in and out of the story, I did not emotionally connect with the story as a whole; however, I did come to understand how central Q was in the protagonist’s life and how she really was the love of his life. His journey as he became engaged, went to law school, travelled kept me entertained. However, as his future selves kept reappearing in his life, the pace of the story picks up, to the point that the author does not dwell on a single decision for a long period of time (page-wise). Thus you don’t see the whole impact of his decision to go to law school or his turn to reading the “great books” as long as the time he spent with Q. It would have been nice to have spent some time looking at events such as his relationship with Minnie or the time that he spent working in a bookstore. The shifts and changes became erratic towards the end and yet they all added up to the strange experiences that was fundamentally the protagonist’s life.

As a result of these frequent appearances of his past self and his decision to follow his future selves’ advice, the core love story eases off but it does come back at the end of the novel in a surprising and ultimately romantic way. At the same time, the return of the love story–thus bringing the story into a full circle–also brought all of the other storylines back together rather neatly. I was also impressed at how the novelist was able to resolve the time travel element of the story; time travel is always a tricky element to utilise in literature (I should know, my NaNoWriMo story last year involved time travel) and his explanation and resolution of that aspect made sense, both on its own and in context of the larger themes of the story. I especially enjoyed the ending of the novel because it serves as a testament to what life is ultimately about and how important love is in one’s life. In a way it also provides a comment to the initial question about whether you would go back to change anything if you had the power to do so.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed the novel with all of its quirks and pop and academic references here and there. It did drag a little bit midway when he was switching between professions but in the end I greatly enjoyed the novel for what it presented; in a way, it’s like life in a nutshell, with all these elements and ideas interconnected to each other in this massive mash. I will say that this novel will not be for everyone–some readers may be turned off by the protagonist’s way of talking or may not enjoy the bouts of philosophical inquiry. It did not evoke my emotions but it did intrigue me and drew me in the questions and themes that it posed (and on a personal note, I guess it was timely reading this because it raised some questions that I’ve been thinking about recently).

Rating: ★★★★★

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