Septimania

Jonathan Levi. Overlook, $27.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4683-1248-5
Highly intelligent, insanely ambitious, and restlessly imaginative, Levi’s (A Guide for the Perplexed) novel is also so recondite that any attempt to accurately describe its plot risks sounding like madness. And yet everything begins simply enough, with a young organ tuner named Malory falling in love with a Cambridge-educated mathematician named Luiza as they discuss music and metaphysics inside St. George’s Church in Cambridge. When Luiza becomes pregnant, the pair relocate to Rome—but before she can give birth, Malory is approached by a man called Settimio with ties to an organization founded in 1666 by Isaac Newton. Settimio reveals that Malory is the direct heir of Charlemagne and King David and the true ruler of the kingdom of Septimania, and he is tasked with finding the One True Rule that explains mathematics, science, and the universe. Settimio takes Malory to the Sanctum Sanctorum, a massive library that contains an alternate origin of the three major world religions, at which point the novel becomes an ornate scholastic quest that invokes Arabian Nights, Dante’s Divine Comedy, and secret agents. But the biggest secrets of all are those kept by Malory’s enigmatic friend Tibor, from Romania, who alone can answer the one question all Malory’s learning cannot solve: what became of Luiza and her child? Strange, sprawling, and an obvious labor of love, Septimania might overwhelm the casual reader, but Levi’s vast creation pays off once you give in to its unique fusion of history, music, and the origin of belief in invisible things. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/15/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4683-1333-8
Hardcover - 978-1-4104-9307-1
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-1-4683-1428-1
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