July 1969. While men are walking on the moon, life in London for sixteen-year-old Jane takes unexpected turns. On the point of falling in love with her best friend Karl, she discovers that there's more to her father's spectacular girlfriend than at first meets the eye. In the sweltering heat of a fast-moving evening, other revelations quickly follow – reconciling Jane with her father but also reopening wounds from the past, laying bare raw emotions kept suppressed for too long. And as the evening draws to a close, the night's drama has only just begun, unfolding in a sequence of violent events that threaten to have lasting repercussions for Jane and the people she loves...
Lightened by a touch of dark humor, with magic tricks, sexuality and family secrets all playing a prominent part, The Madness of Grief is a mystery contained in a coming-of-age tale of friendship, betrayal and loss.
Plot: To George Hareman, aka Mr. Magikoo, whose signature illusion of pulling a rabbit out of two hats involved actually halving the rabbit, are added a cacophony of variously flawed characters. Sixteen-year-old Jane’s mother was accidentally electrocuted as a result of a mishap during another of her father’s illusions ten years earlier and now she must find her way to adulthood with only Auntie Ada; George’s atypical girlfriend Mia-Mia; Jane’s musical boyfriend Karl; and his mother, Reichian psychologist Dr. Schmidt who believes the moon landing was a hoax, as her allies, compromised though they may be.
Prose: Panayotis Cacoyannis has committed to a straightforward, often humorous, style of writing to describe an unrelenting barrage of unusual and often absurd events. He creates a bizarre fictional world where each unlikely event is followed by one even more unlikely, that the reader accepts without question.
Originality: A unique effort that combines a deep understanding of emotion, of the need to live and to grow, with an unfailing control of language and a more than proficient ability to tell a story.
Character/Execution: Jane’s coming of age is immensely complicated by her mother’s death and her father’s guilt and denial, but still she finds her own ways to make peace with her past and her present, to risk, and to grow. Cacoyannis has deftly captured the interplay of reluctance, denial, courage and vulnerability that such a journey requires.
Blurb: A rollicking good read in which profound truths about the human psyche, about memory and betrayal, about love and forgiveness, emerge with such finesse that the reader is carried along hardly aware of the complexity and depth of the novel.
Date Submitted: April 10, 2021
"As in his previous novels, Cacoyannis (POLK, HARPER & WHO, 2017, etc.) again shows his perceptive understanding of the many layered elements that make up the psyche... The uses, attractions, and dangers of lies, fictions, magic, and illusion run through the story in thought-provoking ways (“One of Mr. Magikoo’s best-known tricks involved pulling a rabbit out of two different hats...by sleight of hand the mutilation of the rabbit was concealed”). Telling the truth can have dire consequences; sometimes lying is necessary to protect the innocent; magic’s enthrallment depends on the audience’s feelings of horror. Cacoyannis’ characters, even minor ones, are equally complex and multifaceted, with histories that he brings out skillfully. Jane in particular is an appealing young person with her honesty, cleverness, openness, and desire to do the right thing. Flashes of absurdist dark humor provide a welcome note in the book’s dramatic events.
A well-written, richly complicated, and deeply engaging coming-of-age tale." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2018
"Along with Jane, the reader is able to grow and accept what might have seemed odd or even grotesque if he weren't able, through Jane's eyes, to see it as an expression of human nature -- and human love -- with its myriad complications. In this sense, The Madness of Grief represents a coming of age in which the reader finds himself taking an active part -- no mean feat for a short novel such as this.
As in all Cacoyannis novels, the language in which the people and events are described is impeccably precise and evocative. Throughout the novel, there is a balance between the humor implicit in the recurring revelation that people can also be their own opposites and the underlying tragedy of the difficulty of coping with this all too human predicament. The story moves rapidly,contains a genuine mystery, and is thoroughly entertaining. I found it to be a story that left me with a deep sense of satisfaction about the potential within my fellow human beings." Casey Dorman - Lost Coast Review