Thursday, August 13, 2009
The Good Mayor
The Good Mayor / Andrew Nicoll
Toronto: Vintage Canada, c2009.
I received this book from Random House, unexpectedly -- it looked rather charming so I began it one evening -- and couldn't seem to stop reading. I stayed up WAY too late getting to know Good Mayor Tibo Krovic of the city of Dot, his secretary Agathe Stopak (for whom he suffers an unrequited love), Agathe's slovenly and inattentive husband and his scary rake of a cousin, the proprietress of an Italian coffee bar who is a true strega, and many other inhabitants of their lovely city Dot, in which the River Ampersand runs to the sea.
Opening with narration by the town of Dot's patron saint, Saint Walpurnia -- who can see everything from her position on all the walls of Dot's houses as well as atop the cathedral -- we are led into a fabulous tale of love and longing. Good Mayor Tibo (and it is always Good Mayor, he is such a Good man) is also a sad man. He is alone, suffering such longing for his secretary that he resorts to peering under his office door in the mornings just to see her removing her winter boots and putting her office shoes on. This leads to a very funny scene in which Agathe unexpectedly opens his door...but you'll have to read it to experience it in context. Tibo reaches out one day to rescue Agathe's lunch when it has fallen into the town fountain, and suddenly there is a spark between them. They begin having lunches together, and flirting, and the Strega as well as everyone else can see what is going on. Sadly, Tibo is the Good Mayor -- so Good that Agathe loses patience and runs off with her husband's skanky cousin.
So what does Tibo do? How can he and Agathe find true love? The Strega and her sons, a phantom troupe of circus performers, and a morbidly obese judge must all conspire to shake Tibo's status from Good Mayor to that of Adventurous Lover. It is a mysterious story, beginning like a fable but becoming more and more dreamlike as it goes. The solution that Tibo and Agathe arrive at is unexpected but possible within this dreamy atmosphere; love prevails, but with a very melancholy, bittersweet and sad flavour.
This was a delightfully serendipitous discovery, a novel that I loved reading. Images from their story are still drifting through my mind, like that half-forgotten dream you try to recall in the morning. Fortunately in this case, I can just open the book again to revisit Dot and all of its citizens. If you are in the mood for something quirky and original, flavoured with melancholy and oddity, try this book.
Also mentioned by:
Luanne at A Bookworm's World
Dar at Peeking between the Pages