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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Departure Lounge

by
Chad Taylor


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Departure Lounge



Title: Departure Lounge
Author: Chad Taylor
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006
Length: 173 pages
Availability: Departure Lounge - US
Departure Lounge - UK
Departure Lounge - Canada
Salle d'embarquement - France

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Our Assessment:

B : atmospheric, quite gripping, but a bit loose

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Monde . 17/11/2006 Florence Noiville
The NY Times Book Rev. . 4/6/2006 Alison McCulloch
The Washington Post A 9/5/2006 Jonathan Yardley


  From the Reviews:
  • "Concision, art du trouble, sens de l'étrange: Chad Taylor est sûrement ce que l'on fait de mieux en matière de roman noir néo-zélandais. Il a compris qu'il n'y a pas d'écrivain cosmopolite et que c'est en creusant au plus profond en direction de ses racines que l'on parvient à être universel." - Florence Noiville, Le Monde

  • "Taylor, a New Zealand writer with four previous novels under his belt, is a master of darkness and detail, but his troubled burglar is always a little too remote, as is any resolution to the questions he raises about himself and his past." - Alison McCulloch, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(S)mart, original, surprising and just about as cool as a novel can get. (...) In the end, then, Departure Lounge is about the transition from adolescence to adulthood and the many losses that are incurred en route. Beneath the crackle of Taylor's prose and the quick jabs of his wit, there is a sympathetic heart that knows how difficult this passage can be. Departure Lounge is a lovely piece of work that leaves one hoping more of Taylor's writing finds its way to this side of the Pacific." - Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Departure Lounge is narrated by Mark William Chamberlain. He's a thief, and with five arrests to his credit looks well on his way to becoming a career criminal. The book begins with him preparing for and then doing another break-in, a pro at work, though it's fairly petty crime he specialises in. He doesn't feel too much guilt -- and maybe he shouldn't: his first mark is a rip-off artist of a different sort (and calibre), and a crime he's later hired for is more conspiracy than robbery, blurring the lines of guilt and innocence too.
       Mark is stuck in time. He still lives in his mother's old place, and he's never tried to make much more out of his life. There's a certain fatalism about him, too, as he knows that his next arrest likely would see him do so some serious prison time. He doesn't even bother to lock the door to his place, filled to overflowing with stolen goods -- but then his motivation in breaking and entering doesn't seem to be personal enrichment anyway .....
       His latest spree -- a few flats in one building -- leads him to confront his past more directly. It's this past, a specific event, that has obviously marked him: the mysterious disappearance of local girl Caroline May in 1979. No trace of her was found, no clue as to where she might have gone (or been taken), leading to a frustrating investigation that yielded essentially no results. An explanation of what ultimately happened to her is eventually found, but even that is far from satisfactory.
       Mark knew Caroline, and it is this event that obviously unhinged him and has kept him stuck in this rut, but he's far from the only one who was soo affected. And, as another character, equally scarred by the traumatic event, explains:

It doesn't matter where you go or where you've been, you're always going to get dragged back to the one thing that shapes it all.
       Mark seems to have been less dragged back than chained to it all along, and Taylor effectively presents how it has haunted the character and affected how his life turned out as he fills in the blanks from Mark's past.
       There's a noirish tint to the book, with Mark's criminal activity (and acquaintances), the treatment of the women, and even a jaded policeman, and there's considerable appeal to the scenes -- the break-ins and the encounters are nicely handled, the tone a convincing one. It's in the book's greater ambition, the spirit of Caroline May that haunts it, that it falls a bit short. It's a good idea, but hard to pull off; Taylor comes close but doesn't entirely convince with it.
       Still, Departure Lounge is a solid, atmospheric little book, and Taylor a capable writer.


       Note: One hopes readers don't pay too much attention to back-cover and jacket-flap copy, but what's written there is something one looks at to get an idea what the book is about -- so it's with some puzzlement that one reads on the inside-jacket-flap of the Europa editions volume:
Greg is a small-time thief. (...) Greg searches for signs of an answer to a question that has troubled him since a local girl disappeared.
       There is, in fact, a character named Greg (Williams) in the novel (though he only shows up fairly late), but the thief, narrator, and protagonist's name is Mark William Chamberlain, and even if there might be some question when it is first mentioned (only a few pages into the book) whether that's his real name it's repeated often enough that there can be no question about it.
       Not a good mistake to make.

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Links:

Departure Lounge: Reviews: Chad Taylor: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       New Zealand author Chad Taylor was born in 1964.

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© 2006-2008 the complete review

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