Passion. Be it for another being or for a craft can make for interesting reading. We are all guilty to blindly following someone or doing something without rationalizing why we do it. And the hurt when that occurs when we fall because of our blind passions creates some uneasy situations. And that is the beauty behind the novel Serafim and Claire by Mark Lavorato.
It was madness, and she knew it. Yet Claire Audette could not help needing to hear that song on the phonograph again, one last time, before she picked up the telephone. She watched the device (a second-hand Victrola) from her bed, where she shivered under a pile of duvets and blankets that she had wrapped tightly around herself, shuddering uncontrollably, her teeth clacking in her cheeks, a deafening woodpecker in a forest of thoughts. Thoughts she was aware, that were drifting helplessly towards delirium. Her fever was on the rise; and she could be sure of this by the way the coldness in her muscles was sinking, deeper, into her bones, into the marrow beneath them, turning the jelly there into grating grains of frost. She felt like, even if the fever were to pass, she would never really warm up again. Not fully.
Lavorato takes two different people – Claire Audette and Serafim Viera – with the same drives and passions. Claire is a dancer trying to break into the nightclub scene of 1920s Montreal. Serafim is a photographer who is exploring new ways of his art with little success. Both are driven and both have had their hearts broken, but foolishly or not, they still continue their ways.
Sunday was not a day of rest for Serafim. There was church to go to, and after the service (before the public at large retired to their social clubs and private dinners for the evening) most of the population would spend an hour or two promenading through the pruned grounds of the Palacio de Cristal, a florid garden situated at one of the highest points of the area, overlooking the city of Oporto and the banks of the Douro, where they parted from each other and folded out into the open sea. At times the massive and ornate gardens would be so crowded that people had to shuffle through with elbow room alone, brushing against women with their piquantly sweet perfumes and the contrast of the white dresses and black shawls, the fabric fluttering like doves taking flight at their feet as they walked, while above, a knot of swan necks seemed to emerge through the dark embroidery at their shoulders and peck at the height of their elaborate hats. Men stepped smoothly in their Sunday best, elegantly poised, bow-tied, and pulling the gold chains of their pocket watches just to make sure that, indeed, all the time in the world was still theirs. For a photographer, the opportunities were endless.
It is no secret that eventually that Serafim and Claire will meet. But it is the journey that brings them together that makes the story interesting. Lavorato is brilliant with description – be it a scene or with an emotion – making the novel great to read.
When they could feel the wind again, Claire turned around to face her friend and new roommate, who was nestled in the leather of the open back seat, holding on to her hat once more. Claire giggled at her, the mansions of Sherbrooke Street now dwindling in the distance; and as they receded, so did the possibility, in Claire’s mind, that the thing she had just done would ever be able to follow her. Her friend, like a champagne bottle foaming over with jubilation, suddenly threw back her head and laughed, one of her arms spilling out over the back seat, flailing into the night behind them. She and Claire laughed up at the stars and into the long pearl boulevard of the Milky Way.
It was the beginning of summer 1920. They were seventeen. And the times – you could feel it – were changing.
Serafim and Claire by Mark Lavorato is a book about passion and drives. It explores that element of the human condition in a well written fashion. No doubt one of the best books of this year.