First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.

Utopia Avenue is the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folk singer Elf Holloway, blues bassist Dean Moss, and guitar virtuoso Jasper de Zoet, Utopia Avenue embarked on a meteoric journey from the seedy clubs of Soho to a TV debut on Top of the Pops, the cusp of chart success, glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome, and a fateful American sojourn in the Chelsea Hotel, Lauren Canyon, and San Francisco during the autumn of 1968.

David Mitchell’s kaleidoscopic novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue’s turbulent life and times: of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of voices in the head and the truths and lies they whisper; of music, madness, and idealism. Can we really change the world or does the world change us?

Seven days have already passed since 2021 started. Contrary to what every expected, the first seven/eight days of the year were eventful, capped by violent images captured during the recent riot (or siege, if you may) at the US Capitol. I hope it is not a precursor to what 2021 has in store for everyone. I am fervently hoping that things would turn around, especially with the mass vaccination that is happening all over the world. I hope everyone keeps safe in these trying and uncertain times!

If there was one thing that has been a constant company during the lockdowns, it would be the books (apart from my mobile phone of course, haha). Currently, I am reading my third David Mitchell novel and my second novel of the year. I wasn’t intending to buy and read Utopia Avenue until I found it being listed as one of the best reads for 2020. Oh well, the curious cat in me just had to find out what it has in store. Besides, it has been nearly three years since I last read a work by Mitchell.

The titular Utopia Avenue pertains to a band that was formed during London’s psychedelic scene in 1967. It all started when Levon Frankland scouted talented musicians all over London, starting with bassist Dean Moss. The readers first met Moss just after he got robbed, kicked out of his place, and fired from his job. The only things he was clinging on to were his guitar and his music. With impending doom, Levon’s proposition was irresistible. Together, Levon and Dean scouted promising musicians who would soon compose the band – guitar virtuoso Jasper de Zoet, prodigious drummer Peter “Griff” Griffin, and folk singer Elf Holloway.

On the surface, the story sounds tame and domestic, even for Mitchell’s caliber. Nevertheless, Mitchell rivets with his depiction of the music scene. The readers are drawn into the creative process of music whilst being introduced to an interesting and at times, eccentric, set of characters. I like the fact that the narrative is peripatetic, something that it shares with the other Mitchell works I have read. The writing is also stellar and flows smoothly even though the story weaves back and forth between the past and the present.

I also did note that the novel alluded to some of Mitchell’s earlier works such as Jasper de Zoet listening to a recording of The Cloud Atlas Sextet. It was composed by Robert Frobisher, a character described in Cloud Atlas. The De Zoet family name also sounded familiar because of one Mitchell novel I previously bought (but has not read yet), The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. This is also something that characterizes Mitchell’s works.

I found the earlier parts of the novel a bit bland, for a Mitchell work. It was a tad slow as Mitchell took his took drawing the profiles of the characters. It is picking up pace now as more details of the characters and their past are being unveiled. I hope that it would still pickup as it is beginning to feel more like a Mitchell novel. Some supernatural elements are now being introduced into the story although I suspect that it won’t be as shocking as his other works. Mitchell is quite renowned for his genre-bending works like Cloud Atlas and The Bone Clocks.

With year-end closing activities finally done (*a big sigh of relief*), I am hoping to finish Utopia Avenue over the weekend. I am also waiting to be enchanted yet again by Mitchell. How about you fellow reader, what book are you going to read this weekend? I hope it is a book that you’ve been looking forward to and I hope you enjoy it. Keep safe, and happy weekend!