Grace A. Johnson
book review: the lost melody by joanna davidson politano
Warnings: #1 This is a long review, so pull up a chair and grab a bowl of popcorn. You’ll be here awhile. #2 When I read a review, I want substantial information. So I will not skimp on the details. Which may mean some spoilers, so watch out.
Someone please explain to me...HOW DOES THIS WOMAN DO IT? No matter the story, the characters, or my reservations, Politano has me savoring every word of every one of her books and suffering from severe book hangover when I’ve finished reading.
I just...I can’t wrap my mind around this woman’s immense talent. I can only say it’s truly divine, and that I aspire to leave readers just as amazed and in love with my work as I am with hers.
Now, let’s face it. The Lost Melody wasn’t A Midnight Dance. I honestly don’t think Politano could ever top AMD (y’all, that book has a piece of my s o u l), BUT it came pretty darn close. Plus, y’know, it did help that Jack (omgosh, I love that man), Ella, and Philippe made surprise appearances—but wait. That’s a spoiler, isn’t it?
Before I dive into why I absolutely adored this book, let me address a few things. This book is marketed as dealing with mental health and women’s rights/independence. Heck, that may have been why you’re even interested in it in the first place. But I beg to differ just a wee bit.
I don’t see feminism and women’s rights in this book. I don’t even see your typical mental health rep.
I see the humanity and the beauty of that humanity in all of us. I see the sanctity of life, no matter how burdened or broken that life may seem. I see the divine touch and power of God, His love, and His Spirit at work in those lives.
And that’s how this book should be marketed. Not with trendy words, labels, and -isms. But by boldly declaring the deep, authentic themes in this novel. Because, through every page, that is what you read, what you feel, what speaks to you, what leaves an impression on your heart. Not an urge to march or sound off on social media...but an urge to see what God sees—what He created—and to love like He loves. To bring light into the dark places and joy into the sad hollows and peace into the chaotic storms.
(As long as we’re talking women and mental health, I gotta say...Politano does it right. First of all, she’s authentic and real instead of cliché or conformed. Second, she’s biblical and Christ-centered and so full of hope. Third, her heroines are strong and can handle themselves, yes, but not despite their dependence. Because of it. Because they rely on God for strength when they’re too weak. Because they seek His will instead of their own selfish desires. Because they run to Him instead of retreating into themselves or running to another person. Because they have support systems and friends they love. Because they learn to trust and walk alongside strong, Godly men. My only question is: why don’t other authors take a page out of Politano’s book and start writing heroines who are strong because God is with and within her rather than heroines who only seem weak because they rely on themselves and a collection of inauthentic clichés?)
The characters in this were, for the most part, so very vibrant. I did get confused with some of the nurses a time or two, but the characters who counted were indeed very well-written and intriguing. Everyone, inmate or outsider, hero or villain, had a story and depth to them—something I appreciated!
I loved how Politano blurred the lines sometimes, though. You never really knew who to trust, who was “mad” or, well, not mad, who was with Vivienne and who was against her. It never seemed forced or contrived; it was always a natural blur that felt genuine.
Speaking of Vivienne...no, she wasn’t Ella, and she wasn’t a favorite heroine, BUT I LIKED HER. A LOT. AND THAT COUNTS. A whole lot. I’ll say it again, Politano is ah-may-zing at writing heroines, and I simply don’t think she could write one I don’t like.
And it really all boils down to their arcs. Their growth. Their faith. Every time, especially with Viv, she weaves in these intrinsic, powerful truths and deep, relatable struggles to create arcs and themes that are authentic, poignant, and inspiring.
My man Mitchell was definitely lacking in that department, though. *sighs * FIRST OF ALL, HE WASN’T JACK. I mean, no one is Jack Dorian, obviously, so how could I love him as I do my sweet, darling Jack? But on a less fangirly note, he was on the underdeveloped side. Even though he had a few third-person POV scenes (certainly more than Jack did, I think, which I was glad for), they never really seemed to make any headway with his character. They just provided a wee glimpse of insight but no firm resolution, which only served to muddle the man.
BUT he was an absolute doll, so I can’t complain. I just…wanted more. So much more. Y’all know how I love my boys.
His romance with Viv (no, I don’t guess that’s a spoiler) was kinda rushed (I agree with my girl Sophia, although I can’t say I was surprised by their burst of affection *winks*) and it certainly took the back burner...but was that a bad thing? I don’t think so. I think it fit the story and the characters, and that was that. I’m just glad there was romance (of course) and that it wasn’t butchered (which I don’t think Politano could do). HOWEVER, the only way it seemed truly rushed to me was that Mitchell seemed to be mourning Dahlia the whole novel. It wasn’t so bad it seemed creepy or weird or unnatural for him to fall for Viv; I just think he needed a wee bit more time.
Speaking of, the ending was definitely rushed too. Like, we finally made it to the place we’d been waiting the whole novel for...and that was it. I NEEDED RESOLUTION. And I mean more than one page’s worth. BUT I am a fine one to talk (Southern sarcasm here), because I legit did the same thing in most recent novel. So...is it really an issue? Nope. I’m not too tore up about it, although it did seem inconsistent with the pacing of the rest of the novel. Really, one extra chapter could’ve fixed that for me. I don’t think it’s necessarily the length of the ending that makes it seem rushed; it’s just what all occurs during that length. If everything happens in your one ending chapter, Houston, we’ve got a problem. But as soon as we disperse it evenly over two or three chapters, we’re go for launch.
*coughs* Pardon my writerly musings. I do ramble so.
Case in point, there were some pacing particulars, but not a make-it-or-break-it. (I really just have to say something negative so I’m not being super gushy all the time.) There were also some times where I felt like there was so much going on—from Anna and Otto to Bridget and Thornhill to Mitchell and Rose. So many people and situations that I couldn’t keep track, and that resulted in some aspects (like what happened with Bridget in the end) seeming rushed and undeveloped. Had there been fewer subplots (or more pages; that works too), it would’ve been perfect in the plot department!
(Oh, who am I kidding? I just wanted the book to be longer! Y’all know I’m all about those 800+ page epics.)
Otherwise, the suspense, the mystery, the is-she-insane-or-not, the intrigue, the plot twists...they were all so well-done. And, y’all, I tried once, but I soon learned my lesson: don’t bother guessing or assuming while reading a Politano novel. You ain’t never gonna figure it out!
INCOMING WHOOPER OF A SPOILER!!! (Was it just me, though, or was there one loose end? No one ever confirmed or denied that Marcel was probably Rose’s father, which is absolutely my hypothesis. I guess that means there are opportunities for a s e q u e l!!!)
Oh, and I really appreciated the author’s note! Fiction often errs to one side—either super dark or super light—so kudos to authors like Joanna who take the time to note where not everything was black-and-white, like with Victorian asylums that weren’t all bad, cruel, and abusive like Hurstwell.
And can I just give her a standing ovation too for yet again entrancing me in a story so intricate, so exquisite, so BLASTED WELL-WRITTEN that I could cry? Like, y’all. Explain to me how she does it. I simply don’t understand.
Before I close, I must speak on the prose. This woman, I swanny, she writes so gorgeously. Her descriptions, the way she immerses you into what the character sees and feels, the way everything comes to life in the most beautiful language...*heart melts* I adore it. I love when authors take the time to tailor the narrative to their character, to let their thoughts and voice shine through, but y’all. She went above and beyond. The musical references and the melody throughout wove seamlessly together in a glorious symphony.
There is truly nothing like a novel by Joanna Davidson Politano. They’re riveting, haunting, mysterious, and full of suspense. They’re deep and introspective, immersive and personal. They’re full of profound truth, hope, and Holy Spirit. They’re delightful, romantic, and tender. No one else I’ve ever read writes quite like this lady. May God bless her.
And may God bless you for reading this entire review. *chuckles* Now go on and read the book!
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary review copy from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.
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about the author
Joanna Davidson Politano freelances for a small nonfiction publisher but spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives. Her manuscript for Lady Jayne Disappears was a finalist for several contests, including the 2016 Genesis Award from ACFW, and won the OCW Cascade Award and the Maggie Award for Excellence. She is always on the hunt for random acts of kindness, people willing to share their deepest secrets with a stranger, and hidden stashes of sweets. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her at www.jdpstories.com.
Have you ever read a Joanna Davidson Politano novel? If so, which one? Do you have a favorite? How do you feel most writers (especially Christian ones) portray hot topics like mental health and women's rights? Do you like fictional heroines, or have you noticed a lot of them (specifically Christian historical romance ones) are poorly-written and undeveloped feminists? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
yours in spirit and script,
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