July 1969. While men are walking on the moon, life in London for sixteen-year-old Jane takes unexpected turns. On the point of falling in love with her best friend Karl, she discovers that there's more to her father's spectacular girlfriend than at first meets the eye. In the sweltering heat of a fast-moving evening, other revelations quickly follow – reconciling Jane with her father but also reopening wounds from the past, laying bare raw emotions kept suppressed for too long. And as the evening draws to a close, the night's drama has only just begun, unfolding in a sequence of violent events that threaten to have lasting repercussions for Jane and the people she loves...
Lightened by a touch of dark humor, with magic tricks, sexuality and family secrets all playing a prominent part, The Madness of Grief is a mystery contained in a coming-of-age tale of friendship, betrayal and loss.
Plot: This novel is well plotted, with many surprising twists and a strongly established sense of place and time. The ending is a bit frustrating in that while the main character appears to know what happened to her aunt's sculpture and who sold the scandalous story to the tabloids, the reader remains in the dark.
Prose/Style: The prose is smooth and captivating, drawing readers into a realistic story world.
Originality: The characters, setting, time period, and story are highly original and engaging. The enchanting "magic" store and magician backstory, along with the moon landing (propaganda, according to Dr. Schmidt), and Mia-Mia's "disguise," disappearance and reappearance, help to develop a theme of lies and deceptions, real and not real.
Character Development: Characters are well developed and believable, with intriguing mysteries emerging in their backstories and resolving as the novel moves forward.
Date Submitted: June 25, 2019
"As in his previous novels, Cacoyannis (POLK, HARPER & WHO, 2017, etc.) again shows his perceptive understanding of the many layered elements that make up the psyche... The uses, attractions, and dangers of lies, fictions, magic, and illusion run through the story in thought-provoking ways (“One of Mr. Magikoo’s best-known tricks involved pulling a rabbit out of two different hats...by sleight of hand the mutilation of the rabbit was concealed”). Telling the truth can have dire consequences; sometimes lying is necessary to protect the innocent; magic’s enthrallment depends on the audience’s feelings of horror. Cacoyannis’ characters, even minor ones, are equally complex and multifaceted, with histories that he brings out skillfully. Jane in particular is an appealing young person with her honesty, cleverness, openness, and desire to do the right thing. Flashes of absurdist dark humor provide a welcome note in the book’s dramatic events.
A well-written, richly complicated, and deeply engaging coming-of-age tale." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2018
"Along with Jane, the reader is able to grow and accept what might have seemed odd or even grotesque if he weren't able, through Jane's eyes, to see it as an expression of human nature -- and human love -- with its myriad complications. In this sense, The Madness of Grief represents a coming of age in which the reader finds himself taking an active part -- no mean feat for a short novel such as this.
As in all Cacoyannis novels, the language in which the people and events are described is impeccably precise and evocative. Throughout the novel, there is a balance between the humor implicit in the recurring revelation that people can also be their own opposites and the underlying tragedy of the difficulty of coping with this all too human predicament. The story moves rapidly,contains a genuine mystery, and is thoroughly entertaining. I found it to be a story that left me with a deep sense of satisfaction about the potential within my fellow human beings." Casey Dorman - Lost Coast Review