“Melanie’s Song” Reviewed in The Maryland Literary Review
Author and Baltimore native, Charles Rammelkamp writes glowingly about Joanna Biggar's newest novel in his review in MLR.
"A sequel to her 2010 novel, That Paris Year, which followed five California girls on their junior year abroad, in 1962, at the Sorbonne, Joanna Biggar’s new novel follows the same five characters, again mainly from the point of view of J.J., a journalist for the Pasadena Star. It’s a dozen years later and we’re back in California. One of the friends, Jocelyn, is a famous movie star; another, Eve, the former wife of an up-and-coming politician, has renounced the world and become a nun in Africa, and Gracie has become a scientist at Cal Tech. The fifth friend is Melanie from the novel’s title. Melanie has “disappeared,” possibly dead.
After her marriage to a celebrated composer and violinist, Hans, collapses, Melanie becomes something of a fugitive, leaving her husband in Rochester, NY, going first to Woodstock and later to the South and elsewhere as a sort of mysterious underground activist before the remains of a woman are discovered at a burned-down hippie commune in northern California, remains that might be hers. The main story is about discovering where and who Melanie really is. This is J.J.’s project, both as a friend and as a newspaper reporter. The mystery of the fire only adds urgency to the search—as well as a compelling punch to the story JJ is writing for her newspaper."
“Joanna Biggar explored Paris as a post-adolescent during the distant Age of Kennedy in That Paris Year. Now she explores the backwaters of American revolutionary culture during the so-called Summer of Love in Melanie’s Song. With wit and aplomb, Biggar reminds readers that love may be free but has its consequences. A poet and journalist, when she turns her talents to storytelling, the result is a page-turning novel where mystery meets self-invention. Voila! C’est formidable!”
— David Downie