Restrained and intricate mosaic of mourning by a writer of exceptional promise
Nine lives intersect in a more or less random fashion, touched in one way or another by the death of Mattias. As the novel begins, we are left in the dark as to what has happened. All we know is that a young man has died. Tracing his way expertly through a tangle of storylines, Peter Zantingh subtly shows how lives touch, diverge and fold around one another. Connections that are not immediately apparent suddenly swim into focus, triggering a surge of emotion. A novel about loss and grief, chance and fate, written with haunting musicality.
The facets of Mattias’s life are unveiled through the stories told by nine different characters. For him life centres on music and flashes of incandescence. He lives carelessly, seldom seeing things through, but with a boundless enthusiasm that draws people in. His girlfriend Amber feels the emptiness he has left behind. The unfinished projects that used to exasperate her now symbolise what she has lost. Mattias played his favourite songs too loudly and sang along, but she longs for the irritation she once felt to replace the quiet his death has left her. She talks about his work at a booking office for folk, jazz and world music, and about the fanatical gaming habit that saw him in Football Manager simulate his way fifty years into the future.
When another narrator, Quentin, took a bus trip with Amber and Mattias, he realised how their relationship worked. ‘She was the one who sorted through the loose ends.’ He sees the pitfalls inherent in their plan to start a coffee house called Playlists, where customers can enjoy a good cup of coffee while savouring their own painstakingly compiled selection of music. Quentin tries to blank out the death of his friend by running long and hard.
We see Mattias’s grandparents, for whom marriage has become a matter of attrition, bickering on the sofa as they watch Netflix, a subscription Mattias gave them as a present. Then there’s Issam, the roadie for the band, a fervent gamer who struck up a friendship with Mattias after his laptop was stolen. The rage and sorrow experienced by Mattias’s mother as she tries to give her life new meaning by working with refugees. Chris, a blind runner who has Quentin as his guide.
One by one we grow closer to the people at the heart and on the margins of Mattias’s life. Until this remarkably intricate and profoundly moving mosaic of a novel allows us to understand it all.