Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway

The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway is the story of four intertwined lives brought together by Wagner's opera Tristan and Isolde. Their stories connect across time, with the oldest belonging to Lucien, a young man desperate to become an opera singer who falls in love with an architect in 1846 Paris. Over a century later in 1960s New York, Anna's career as an opera singer is just beginning to take off with her role as Isolde. In the 1970s, Maria follows her voice to Juillard as she attempts to break free from her mundane life in Pittsburgh. Finally, Martin is a forty-year-old lawyer, HIV positive and coming to grips with his life after the September 11th attacks on New York.

Gallaway easily intertwines a supernatural element inspired by the original opera after which his book is named, The Makropulos Affair, as Lucien's father works towards creating an elixir for immortal life. Although I tend to avoid books with a supernatural twist, I was so enraptured with Gallaway's writing and storytelling that I was willing to suspend belief when necessary. Admittedly the novel was unexpectedly graphic at times but only once was I made uncomfortable by a liaison between two individuals who are actually related to each other and which felt unnecessary to the actual development of the story. The novel itself is reminiscent of the storytelling of Michael Cunningham, who wrote The Hours and most recently By Nightfall not only because of the fact that they both deal with sexuality but also because like, By Nightfall, The Metropolis Case is a novel focused mainly around New York and what Nightfall did for the art world, Gallaway does for opera, allowing the reader a glimpse into what happens behind the scenes.

An aspect of The Metropolis Case which I found particularly interesting was the very original chapter headings, however I was less impressed by the fact the novel began with a chapter written in e-mail format a technique which was not repeated in the remaining pages. I found it a little odd to begin a book in one way and then to abandon the method in the rest of it. Ultimately though, this is a very minor complaint for a novel that I overall enjoyed. I really loved Gallaway's writing, as he seemed capable of sharing just the right amount of detail to intrigue but not overwhelm the reader. Gallaway is able to interweave an incredible number of themes into the compact chapters, touching on sexuality, love, friendship, passion and family. This is also the first book I have ever read involving opera, and for a form of music which has been so important over time it was really wonderful to finally get a glimpse into the power and the people behind it. The Metropolis Case is a book that can most easily be described as both literary and intellectual, nothing in the novel is straightforward but the reader is rewarded for their investment with a story that is both interesting and original.

Release Date: December 28, 2010
Pages: 384
Overall: 4/5
Buy the Book

This review was a part of TLC Book Tours. Click here to read what other tour hosts thought. For the purpose of this review I was provided with a copy of the book which did not require a positive review. The opinions expressed in this post are completely my own. 


  1. I love the cover, and it sounds like the type of of story I would enjoy. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. It sounds like a complex and fascinating read. Thanks so much for being on the tour!

  3. @ Diane, the hardcover looks gorgeous, I'm planning to purchase a copy for myself in the future.

    @ Lisa, I loved being on this tour and fascinating and complex are perfect ways to describe the book!


Your comments make my day!