In Nandini Bhattacharya's review of Melanie's Song for "The Literary Review" posted earlier this week, she focuses on the novel's non-traditional story-focus:
"...What distinguishes Biggar’s novel from the traditional hero’s journey narrative and in fact makes it more satisfying and significant is that [the main character] undertakes a hero’s journey not for her own self-realization...but for the sake of a companion...thus foregrounding through the very structure of her novel the feminist foundation and framework of J.J. Rocher’s journey to the underworld..."
On how Joanna Biggar utilizes a varied array of characters:
"It is no small feat to keep in line and on their toes the nearly twenty characters in the novel who all play varied but significant roles in this emotional saga of women’s friendship (told like a Chandlerian whodunnit), but Biggar interweaves the parallel and intersecting stories with such finesse and assurance that the reader isn’t lost for a moment."
And on Joanna Biggar's evocation of the book's unique setting:
"...imposing panorama of America in the seventies complete with Woodstock, Martin Luther King Jr., racial tensions, civil rights movements and activists, hippies and dropouts, drug use, burgeoning feminist consciousness and the tenacious relics of the fifties and early sixties. To tackle this swath and scope of material — private and public stories — is the mark of a writer who is attempting nothing less than an epic."
She writes in conclusion:
"Joanna Biggar is a marvelous storyteller, and Melanie’s Song is an unputdownable, riveting feat of storytelling."
Nandini Bhattacharya is Professor of English and affiliate of Film, Women's Studies and Africana Studies programs at Texas A&M University, USA. Her interests include South Asia, Postcoloniality, Cinema, Gender and Transnationalism.
Nandini Bhattacharya has been writing fiction — mainly short stories and novels — for several years. She has received residencies and fellowships at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Workshop, the Sarah Lawrence Summer Writers’ Workshop, the Southampton Summer Writers’ Conference, The Voices of Our Nation Arts Writing Workshop, the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop in Paris, and the Vermont Studio Center (July 2019).