The Metropolis Case

( 12 )

Overview

From the smoky music halls of 1860s Paris to the tumbling skyscrapers of twenty-first-century New York, a sweeping tale of passion, music, and the human heart’s yearning for connection
 
Martin is a forty-year-old lawyer who, despite his success, feels disoriented and disconnected from his life in post-9/11 Manhattan. But even as he comes to terms with the missteps of ...

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The Metropolis Case: A Novel

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Overview

From the smoky music halls of 1860s Paris to the tumbling skyscrapers of twenty-first-century New York, a sweeping tale of passion, music, and the human heart’s yearning for connection
 
Martin is a forty-year-old lawyer who, despite his success, feels disoriented and disconnected from his life in post-9/11 Manhattan. But even as he comes to terms with the missteps of his past, he questions whether his life will feel more genuine going forward.
 
Decades earlier, in the New York of the 1960s, Anna is destined to be a grande dame of the international stage. As she steps into the spotlight, however, she realizes that the harsh glare of fame may be more than she bargained for.
 
Maria is a tall, awkward, ostracized teenager desperate to break free from the doldrums of 1970s Pittsburgh. When the operatic power of her extraordinary voice leads Maria to Juilliard, New York seems to hold possibilities that are both exhilarating and uncertain.
 
Lucien is a young Parisian at the birth of the modern era, racing through the streets of Europe in an exuberant bid to become a singer for the ages. When tragedy leads him to a magical discovery, Lucien embarks on a journey that will help him—and Martin, Maria, and Anna—learn that it’s not how many breaths you take, it’s what you do with those you’re given.
 
This unlikely quartet is bound together across centuries and continents by the strange and spectacular history of Richard Wagner’s masterpiece opera Tristan and Isolde. Grandly operatic in scale, their story is one of music and magic, love and death, betrayal and fate. Matthew Gallaway’s riveting debut will have readers spellbound from the opening page to its breathtaking conclusion.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his ambitious debut, Gallaway jumps backward and forward in time between two cities, spiraling in on four characters connected by music: Lucien, an opera singer coming-of-age in mid-19th-century Paris; Anna, an opera singer reaching the height of her career in 1960s New York; Maria, an extraordinarily promising young singer but a difficult student; and Martin, an aging lawyer whose love of music might save his life. The ties between them are at first so tenuous that readers may wonder when, how, or if their narratives will converge. But Wagner's Tristan and Isolde touches each in some way, as does, eventually, eternal life, a device that allows Gallaway to chronicle 1860s Paris and 1960s New York through the eyes of one character. Gallaway, a former musician, gives music a literary presence, intertwining opera and punk by illuminating their shared passion and chaos. But ambition sometimes gives way to pretension (particularly with chapter titles such as "Fashion Is a Canon for this Dialect Also") and purple prose, but the story remains grounded by characters grappling with love, in some cases for eternity. (Jan.)
Library Journal
This debut offers an operatic confluence of multiple stories concerning Martin, a 40-year-old, HIV-positive lawyer in 2001 New York, who's going through a midlife crisis; the musically gifted Maria, an orphan adopted in Pittsburgh in 1960; and Lucien, also musically gifted and the son of a well-known scientist in mid-19th-century Paris. Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde is important to them all: Lucien eventually sings the role of Tristan at the opera's premiere in Germany in 1864, Maria enrolls at Juilliard and sings as Isolde at a Metropolitan Opera performance, and Martin, who's had an emotionally difficult time coming to terms with his gay identity, decides after his 40th birthday to retire from his lucrative law practice and devote himself to his own interests, one of which has become opera. It all comes together in New York City in the years after 9/11, as fate, destiny, and the transformative power of love are unleashed from the Wagner opera and exert a strong influence on the lives of the characters. VERDICT This charming and inventive novel works as a romantic mystery story of sorts and is recommended for all fiction readers.—Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta Lib.
Kirkus Reviews

The stories of a diva-in-training, a corporate lawyer and a mid-19th-century tenor are connected by Wagner'sTristan und Isolde, in Gallaway's ambitious debut.

On his 41st birthday, Martin, prominent attorney and music lover, watches the 9/11 catastrophe from his office in a nearby Manhattan skyscraper, walks home seven miles to Washington Heights and resolves to alter his life. In the 1860s, Lucien, son of scientist Guillaume (who's working on an anti-aging vaccine), is taken under the wing of his Parisian neighbor, a Romanian princess. Under her patronage, Lucien develops his natural gifts as a tenor, studying with the finest teachers. Maria, born in Pittsburgh in 1960, displays remarkable talent as a soprano and is noticed by Anna, a retired diva who helps secure her admission to Juilliard on scholarship. Martin, also of Pittsburgh, and Maria are the same age, and their paths have crossed before—Maria's parents were both employed by Martin's father. Both children were adopted and, on the verge of adulthood, lost their parents in fluky, fiery accidents. The three protagonists' lives are all touched, integrally and/or peripherally, by Wagner'sTristan. Lucien debuts as Tristan when mad King Ludwig of Bavaria bankrolls a production of the dissonant opera that Paris considered too outrageous. Martin purchases the house of a reclusive tenor, Leo Metropolis, whom he had seen perform asTristan. Metropolis crops up to give Maria career-transforming advice. After Eduard, Lucien's lover, kills himself because the Hapsburg emperor condemns his architectural masterpiece, Lucien returns to Paris, only to suffer at the caprice of another emperor, Louis-Napoléon, who orders a human trial of Guillaume's vaccine. Lucien joins his father as a guinea pig to test the highly toxic potion. Only one will survive—for a long, long time. Easily overlooked details present, upon review, a pleasingly intricate puzzle, but the novel's cerebral tone, didactic digressions and rote characterizations often make for arduous reading.

A promising but belabored start. The three story lines mesh only when forced.

Scott Timberg
Plot is often an afterthought in this kind of character-based literary novel, and at times the story seems to meander and scatter pleasantly, but Mr. Gallaway brings things together quite neatly, even startlingly. By the book's conclusion, the bland-seeming title makes far more sense, and you realize that the novel is actually, in its wily way, a mystery.
—The New York Times
Eugenia Zukerman
…a marvelously complex story. Author Matthew Gallaway has taken a great risk with his first novel by creating an intricate, multilayered tale that slides from past to present, from Europe to New York, from opera to pop. But despite the complexity, The Metropolis Case engages the reader emotionally on every page…This is a story of operatic proportions, filled with coincidences, but it never seems overwrought or contrived. The author's language is down-to-earth but never earthbound, and Gallaway's characters are passionate and funny.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
"Author Matthew Gallaway has taken a great risk with his first novel by creating an intricate, multilayered tale that slides from past to present, from Europe to New York, from opera to pop. But despite the complexity, The Metropolis Case engages the reader emotionally on every page."--The Washington Post

“It’s to the credit of Matthew Gallaway’s enchanting, often funny first novel that it doesn’t require a corresponding degree of obsession from readers, but may leave them similarly transported: the book is so well written — there’s hardly a lazy sentence here — and filled with such memorable lead and supporting players that it quickly absorbs you into its worlds.”—The New York Times

"An absorbing and intricately plotted first novel. Gallaway excels at the long form, producing a dense, well-structured puzzle. Like the opera that ultimately binds his characters together, CASE lingers beyond the final note."--Out Magazine (Critic's Pick)

"Matthew Gallaway's epic debut novel, intimately intertwined with Wagner's "Tristan and isolde," is itself an operatic masterpiece. Gallaway's wonderful prose leaves you hungry for more."--AM New York

"Gallaway is a perceptive and graceful author in his own right whose moving story will appeal to Wagnerian experts and neophytes alike."--Los Angeles Times

“Gallaway’s novel, is not just an intricate, complex, and multilayered novel, but also a rewarding read, that leaves the audience looking forward to Gallaway’s next work.”The Manhattan Times
 
“Mr. Gallaway writes epically, with multiple points of view, multiple stories. Historical and profound, he handles everything beautifully. He is a rich storyteller, and an evocative writer; the complexity of his characters, the rich scenes and the lyrical prose all make it hard to believe that this is his first novel.”Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 “A cerebral novel.”Historical Novels Review

Matthew Gallaway’s The Metropolis Case is an ambitious, heady, intelligent and engaging first novel about the healing powers of art…it solidifies into a page turner, and better still, delivers on a wide range of concerns that go far beyond the musical interests that center the book’s narrative.”Lambda Literary Review

“As ambitious a debut as they come, this sweeping first novel travels across not only continents but centuries as well.”—Entertainment Weekly
 
“Even for a reader unacquainted with opera, The Metropolis Case enthralls.
Theatrical history, training at Julliard, opening night at the Metropolitan—this is an engaging and unusual subject matter. The Metropolis Case is an intriguing debut from a fresh, unique voice.”—Bookpage

"Gallaway, a former musician, gives music a literary presence, intertwining opera and punk by illuminating their shared passion and chaos."--Publishers Weekly

"A pleasingly intricate puzzle."--Kirkus Reviews

"Matthew Gallaway's fascinating and erudite debut novel is a portrait of the passion of several singers across the ages for a single opera, and turns into its own kind of novelistic chorus. Like Tristan und Isolde, the opera at its center, it is complete with wrong love, sacrifice and even a potion. An original new talent has arrived."-- 
Alexander Chee, author of Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night

"I know next to nothing about opera and I loved this book. Let me go further: I actually (don't tell anyone) find opera a bit dull, but now consider me a big buff -- if no other reason than it gave us this powerful, beautiful, wondrous novel."--Darin Strauss, author of Chang and Eng and Half a Life

"Matthew Gallaway possesses a massive vision and a wizard-like ability to weave story lines. The Metropolis Case is an ambitious and beautiful book sure to find a devoted following."--Shane Jones, author of Light Boxes

"The Metropolis Case is a terrifically engaging and elegantly panoramic novel that is sure to appeal to fans of majestic fiction such as Kostova's The Historian."--Katharine Weber, author of True Confections and Triangle

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307463425
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/28/2010
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.86 (w) x 11.34 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Meet the Author

MATTHEW GALLAWAY is a first-time novelist originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He now lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 12 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2011

    Terrific, unusual novel

    This extraordinary set of connected narratives is both intellectual and highly affecting. The characters all grabbed me immediately as they were introduced, and Gallaway gives them all strong, plausible personalities. There are several very powerful scenes that moved me at the time and have stayed with me. The philosophical themes of the power of art - in this case music, and particularly opera - and death, are woven seamlessly into the story and handled with great intelligence. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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