Alex Landragin’s debut is a book that crosses lifetimes, narratives and, above all, gleefully references other residents of your bookshelf. It’s a ride.
French-Armenian-Australian author Alex Landragin’s debut novel Crossings is a book covering decades, if not centuries, from pre-colonised south sea islands, to Paris on the eve of Nazi occupation, through multiple genres, character voices and an intricate web of personalities, both real and imagined. Coco Chanel pops up, as does Baudelaire. All in this meditation on the very idea of soul, of memory, of identity and the concept of metempsychosis, of all things (look it up).
As a love letter to word nerds, this is a novel seemingly in love with the very idea of books; its opening is told from the perspective of a book binder; its McGuffin is an unpublished manuscript; it celebrates the art and power of storytelling and lovingly rhapsodises about stories and storytelling as being akin to “pearls on a necklace” and “brightly painted carousel horses”. This novel is one littered with literary and cultural references and touchstones, plays liberally with form and structure, and eschews as best one can from conventional narrative tropes as one can without making the reader lost in the mire.
There’s a level of ambition to the piece which suggests that Alex Landragin has within him a future output with an even broader scope. This is a novel which spans several hundred years, encompasses three separate narratives and can be read in two distinct ways (cover-to-cover; or by starting at page 150 and following the directions at the bottom of the page, wherein one zigzags through the book to have a different experience).
Crossings is a lively, intricately structured and plotted piece of work. It’s a book which provides you with a pair of satisfying endings (not one, but two—bargain!), made in a pseudo-Choose Your Own Adventure for adults manner that will doubtlessly have some questions left unanswered. But it’s an entirely satisfying experience, tackling new ground, being bold enough to be inventive with form and structure. It takes risks where seldom few are made of late.
It’s a work of stunning ambition as a debut, daring the reader to rise to the challenge that is the multi-narrative structure and fantasy themes woven throughout it.