In a desperate bid to reduce the books that are collecting dust on my TBR shelves, I have decided to collaborate with another avid reader and fellow book reviewer, Nicole from Certified Book Addicts. The #20BACKLISTIN2020 challenge is a self paced challenge hosted by Jaylamm.Reads, Reading and Sunshine, and Cassidys.Bookshelf. The overall goal of this challenge is to read 20 titles from the backlist books that are currently sitting on your TBR pile. For this challenge I will be reading non review books and taking my selections directly from my chock-a-block TBR bookcases (there are two shelved back to back). I will be publishing my reviews of these books on my blog and social media sites on the first and third Tuesday of the month.
Book #8 in the #20BACKLISTIN2020 challenge
Estimated TBR Shelf Life: 1 year
From the award-winning, bestselling author of Addition and Nine Days, a superbly crafted and captivating literary mystery about a lost book and a secret love.
Inga Karlson died in a fire in New York in the 1930s, leaving behind three things: a phenomenally successful first novel, the scorched fragments of a second book—and a literary mystery that has captivated generations of readers.
Nearly fifty years later, Brisbane bookseller Caddie Walker is waiting in line to see a Karlson exhibition featuring the famous fragments when she meets a charismatic older woman. The woman quotes a phrase from the Karlson fragments that Caddie knows does not exist—and yet to Caddie, who knows Inga Karlson’s work like she knows her name, it feels genuine.
Caddie is electrified. Jolted her from her sleepy, no-worries life in torpid 1980s Brisbane she is driven to investigate: to find the clues that will unlock the greatest literary mystery of the twentieth century.
‘The fragments are here, locked behind steel and glass inside the new State Gallery. The fragments. Irreplaceable, priceless.’
The Fragments is Toni Jordan’s fifth novel and it is a story that moves away from her contemporary novels into historical ground. The Fragments is a literary conundrum, traversing 1930s New York and 1980s Brisbane. Toni Jordan’s latest is a perplexing novel, that revolves around the remains of a much hailed literary masterpiece.
The Fragments reveals the tragic destiny of highly regarded author, Inga Karlson, who perishes in a fire in the year 1939. With the life of this literary figure cut short, the renowned writer also leaves behind a lost manuscript for her highly anticipated second novel. Decades later, on the other side of the world, passionate bookseller Caddie Walker attends a literary exhibition, where she discovers the lasting fragments of Inga Karlson’s second novel. When Caddie encounters a mysterious older woman at the exhibition she is inspired to find out more about the lucrative Inga Karlson manuscript. Caddie believes she may be on the brink of unearthing some pertinent new information about the book. Will Caddie be able to unlock the secrets of this age old literary based mystery?
The Fragments is a 2018 Text Publishing novel. I didn’t get to Toni Jordan’s novel when it first released and sadly it has been languishing on my crowded TBR shelves, along with two other Toni Jordan novels. I was prompted to dust this one off my shelves when I noted a cover quote provided by Toni Jordan on a book I recently loved, The Shifting Landscape by Katherine Kovacic. In some respects there are parallels between The Fragments and The Shifting Landscape, both are novels that delve into the arts and investigate an old mystery. However, The Fragments diverts from The Shifting Landscape, revealing a complex story that is rooted in 1930s New York and its literary scene.
Jordan does a fine job of illuminating New York in times past. The depression era is a fascinating time and I valued these sequences of the text, they were carefully realised. I appreciated moving in the arts and culture world inhabited by Inga Karlson. I was also struck by the horror of the tragic fire that claimed the life of this popular author, who really was in her prime at the time of the accident. This aspect of the novel provides some suspense and intrigue to the tale. There is a lot going on in these sequences and they definitely perplexed me. The Fragments includes themes of international politics, Nazism, racism, injustice, strained relations, romance and more.
The Brisbane 1980s sequences of this novel which move in and out of the 1930s components leave a vivid impression on your mind. This was a simpler time, when research and detective techniques were not reliant on the use of the internet. Caddie’s investigations into Inga Karlson’s fractured second novel offered a refreshing change mystery wise, as it was down to sheer brainwork to piece this literary puzzle together. I did enjoy the character of Caddie and I was supportive of her work as a literary sleuth. Jordan suspends this aspect of the novel until very late in the piece so the lucrative manuscript remains shrouded in mystery until the final hour.
The Fragments is an astute historical mystery novel that I will confess to struggling to clasp a hold of at times. It is a multi layered story, defined by a whole host of secrets and clues, building to a mystifying literary enigma.
*** 3.5 stars
The Fragments by Toni Jordan was published on 29th October 2018 by Text Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Fragments, Toni Jordan, visit here.
The Fragments is book #46 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge