Today I’m back with a new book review of a brilliant, dazzling novel, Utopia Avenue, by David Mitchell.
Today it’s all about David Mitchell’s latest blockbuster of a book, Utopia Avenue which I adored. But first… what’s it about? Here’s the blurb:
Utopia Avenue might be the most curious British band you’ve never heard of.
Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967, folksinger Elf Holloway, blues bassist Dean Moss, guitar virtuoso Jasper de Zoet and jazz drummer Griff Griffin together created a unique sound, with lyrics that captured their turbulent times. The band produced only two albums in two years, yet their musical legacy lives on.
This is the story of Utopia Avenue’s brief, blazing journey from Soho clubs and draughty ballrooms to the promised land of America, just when the Summer of Love was receding into something much darker – a multi-faceted tale of dreams, drugs, love, sexuality, madness and grief; of stardom’s wobbly ladder and fame’s Faustian pact; and of the collision between youthful idealism and jaded reality as the Sixties drew to a close.
Above all, this bewitching novel celebrates the power of music to connect across divides, define an era and thrill the soul.
First of all, I thought I would buy this book for my father for Christmas. And I mean that in a good way as he likes this type of music more than me and I’m not a huge music fan myself anyway but there was something about this book that grabbed my attention. Firstly, the gorgeous psychedelic cover that trances you straight away, I thought the title Utopia Avenue was a great title and I wanted to read David Mitchell as I haven’t read any of his books before. Until now.
This book is a big, big, big book. It’s over 500 pages and I thought it would take me ages to get through with it (I have a love/hate relationship with big books) but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes, it’s a big book but it’s split up into paragraph’s throughout which makes you read more and quicker which is my favourite type of writing as the pace didn’t drop at all for me. I kept reading huge chunks of it on the weekend and before I know it, it’s finished.
This book completely surprised me and I mean that as a compliment. As a not big fan of music and bands, I fell head over heels in love with Utopia Avenue. If they were a real band and I was alive in the 1960’s, I just know I would be a little bit (obsessed) in love with them. Especially Dean.
There’s so much to love from this novel. The cover, the beautifully craft of it all, the music, the playful structure, the different directions Mitchell takes you but for me, it’s all about the characters and the band. The book is told in three perspectives usually (with an odd or one two focusing on other characters that benefits the story): Dean, Elf and Jasper. I loved all of these characters – they felt relatable and jumped from the page. I loved their language together as a band too as they felt like a real band – in the sense that you think they are a real band and you go on Google to look for their album. And that’s the power of good writing, I think.
Songs. Like dandelion seeds, sent out by the million, billowing across space and time. Who knows where they’ll land? Or what they’ll bring?
There’s also a huge boast of cameos from famous rock stars, celebrities that might be a bit much for some people but I enjoyed it, especially as one of them was one of my favourite people ever. Clue: the one on the stairs… for me, these cameos cemented the band Utopia Avenue of that time as if the were a band in the 1960’s and not a completely different alternative reality. There are also I’m sure a lot of Easter eggs and clues from previous novels from Mitchell that if you’re a fan, you would appreciate but I’ll have to read his previous novels but that didn’t ruin it for me.
I loved the different ways he takes the story and characters, especially Jasper. There were several moments that shocked me, and I mean shocked me, especially the ending. It was also very cinematic in scope, too, which I loved. I think it would make the perfect film/TV series and I couldn’t help but not picture Paul Mescal as Dean when reading it.
There’s so much to take away from this novel and I’m so glad I read it because I was hooked to it and didn’t want it to finish. It’s one of my favourite reads of the year. If you loved Daisy Jones & The Six, I’m sure you’d love this but it’s different in style/structure and I preferred Utopia Avenue. Now, I want to re-read it all over again and go to his previous novels which I know are well loved, too. A total triumph and it was a shame it wasn’t on the Booker long-list, too.
And, yes, I think I will get this for my father for Christmas…
Have you read Utopia Avenue? Are you a David Mitchell fan? Let me know in the comments!