Friday, 11 October 2013

Book: Last Call for Caviar by Melissa Roen

The world is falling apart after the economy collapsed, leaving American born, Maya Jade, stranded in the south of France near Monaco where she's lived for many years. Her family in the US, and her friends in Monaco urge her to leave, but Maya can't help but feel that she needs to stay to be reunited with her lost love, Julian. Things stay the same in Monaco for a while, but slowly a Russian mob leader, Slava, starts to take over, opposed only by the Emeratis, including Maya's married lover, Abdul, and with rebels and insurgents growing ever nearer to her home, time is tunning out for Maya to make her decision.

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Firstly it should be noted that the book is for an older audience, especially as there are frequent references to sex, drinking, violence and gambling. Its a good thing to find a non-YA book of this genre though! I didn't feel that the sex was particularly explicit, and it was there to show that the rich and the lucky just seemed to be able to carry on with their lives whilst the rest of the world fell apart. Saying that, Maya did seem a lot more grounded than a lot of the other rich characters, and she seemed to have a great deal of compassion, shown through her help of Luca and Joanna, and her befriending of Buddy the Golden Retriever.

Speaking of Buddy, Last Call for Caviar did something very rare for a book; it almost made me cry. (This is a massive achievement, apparently I am strange because I didn't even well up when Dobby died!) The scene that made me well up showed just how invested I was in the relationship between Maya and Buddy, and how clearly and accurately Roen was able to capture the emotions and the relationship between owner and dog. Very often in apocalyptic fiction, pets are completely forgotten about, which does seem a little unrealistic. In contrast, Roen makes Buddy central to the story, and even central to many of Maya's later decisions.

So the romance. From what I would say, there are two main romances, Maya and Julian, and Maya and Abdul. Starting with the latter, I saw Abdul and Maya's relationship as a note on just how little the world of the rich had changed. Abdul was incredibly rich, good looking and powerful, and had a wife and two children in Dubai.  To me it represented the shallowness of throw away flings and the world that they are inhabiting. In complete contrast, the relationship between Maya and Julian seems to represent true love, despite the time and distance, Maya still loves him and wants to try and find him in her chaotic world, even going as far as putting herself in potential danger to try. At first I found Maya's obsession with Julian to be a little bit annoying, and just that, an obsession, but eventually, as she grew as a character, it became apparent that, to her, it was the real deal.

A note about the language. Predominantly the book was written in English, with very occasional words of Italian, but quite frequent sentences and moments of French. Now personally I barely noticed the transitions between English and French (French being my second language, in which I am classified as 'business proficient' - means fluent - and I have lived in Paris so understand some colloquialisms), but I can imagine that some people may get frustrated by reading something that they don't understand. However, personally I would say that it is worth it!

I felt that Last Call for Caviar left a few unanswered questions that I want answering! One is Vlad and what his game is. The other is the aforementioned Luca and Joanna. The duo were on the run from a place referred to as 'the Farm' where they were branded and sold into slavery. This is one of the parts of the novel that has a slight tendency towards dystopia, though that is all that we are told about the Farm, and in a strange, potentially creepy way, I want to know more about it and hope that Roen tells us more about the Farm in the future.

Last Call for Caviar wasn't quite what I had expected, but it is definitely worth a read! I would say go for it!