Monachopsis And Solipsism: Analyzing Puccini's Ghosts

Monachopsis And Solipsism: Analyzing Puccini's Ghosts

Morag Joss writes a hauntingly subversive take on the coming of age trope.

Monachopsis And Solipsism: Analyzing Puccini's Ghosts

Coming of age stories are part of a particularly impactful genre.

Nothing quite illustrates the beauty and small tidbits of the human condition more than the day-to-day conflicts and happenings of a group of people. It's almost always lighthearted, which is part of its appeal.

However, a darker take on that kind of trope is a wonderful genre all on its own. And Morag Joss does that splendidly in her work, Puccini's Ghosts. She somehow manages to carry a sinking, melancholic tone throughout her work which is worth examining.

(Disclaimer: spoilers ahead!)

Joss writes from the perspective of a bitter and empty middle aged woman who returns home after many years for her father's funeral. As she puts together the event, she pieces together a fateful summer in the year of 1960. Most of the novel is told from the perspective of Eliza Duncan-- who goes by her stage name Lila DuCann-- as a young girl living on the Scottish seaside, in her rather bleak, dreary childhood town of Burnhead. Lila DuCann's cynical yet dreamy narration is addicting, and the contrasting timelines add to the almost magical somber tone of this little slice of life. She tells of her parents' broken marriage and of her boring friends (whom she still strives to impress), and of her dreams to go with her uncle George to London.

Her uncle George, visiting from London, devises a rather ambitious plan to put on an adaptation of Turandot by Puccini for the small town and Lila is swept up in the excitement. She meets one of her Uncle's music students, Joe Foscari, and he becomes a hopelessly romantic figure to her. This crush founded on naivete quickly turns into obsession. However, she comes to the realization that Joe and George were in fact secret lovers, and this discovery shatters her family after he is imprisoned and the play is destroyed.

This is a perfect inverse of any Indie darling's touching come-of-age film. They have some similar core aspects: a reckless, idealistic teenage narrator, a central group of people in a small town almost undisturbed by the happenings of the outside world, and an unforgettable summer devoid of any obligations from school. But Joss manages to take this trope and twist it so that it leaves the reader very, very empty instead of nostalgic and yearning for an existence similar to that of the book's characters.

The best thing any author can do is absolutely immerse the reader in its world. The sights, sounds, and all the checklist items of world building is something we hear regularly. However, it's a different thing altogether to be inserted into the world of a character and not the world as seen from the eyes of an outsider. This theme of solipsism and an unreliable idealism is heavy throughout the book-- even at the beginning, Lila writes a rather curt essay on this and her teacher remarks that it's too solipsistic. It's also evident in the way Lila describes her Uncle George when she first sees him-- everything about him reminds her of the glamour of London, of a world she yearns to experience. For her, George Pettifer is an embodiment of all her hopes and dreams. At least in the beginning, that is. As she comes of age, her descriptions of him turn less and less romantic, until he fades into the charmless, soggy landscape of Burnhead; the final blow to any idealism left is the discovery that Joe had no chance of returning her ardent devotional love.

It's difficult work to take the prose and make it mirror the setting almost perfectly. This story is particularly saddening because it is written to seem so real. It's similar to Nabokov's writing style in the sense that whenever something that should be beautiful is being described, Joss points out something ugly that overshadows it. This caters to the bleak yet strikingly realistic tone throughout the book. The switching timelines adds to the haziness of Lila's world. If Puccini's Ghosts were a painting, it would be grey. There is no light at the horizon in this story; in fact, this story seems to get more and more negative and disastrous as it goes on. It's a collection of desperate low points and there is no resolution of hopefulness. It quite literally ends in flames, and that, I would argue, is the mark of a courageous author who is not afraid of examining the unthinkable-- a story with no happy ending and an unashamedly miserable narrator.

Using an inverted coming of age trope and an ability to be unafraid of putting her characters through hell without any hope of redemption, Morag Joss weaves a hauntingly beautiful chrysalistic tapestry of melancholy, heartbreak, and hopelessness in Puccini's Ghosts that deserves all the praise.
Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B just dropped the hottest summer single yet. It's called "WAP" and we're going to get into all the intoxicating lyrics.

This song empowers females and their sexuality. These women put the ridiculous music industry female beef to bed, and I mean tucked away in a coma.

Keep Reading... Show less

How To Write Down The Holy Grail Recipe Everyone Begs You To Make

Because everyone has a signature cocktail, cake, or pasta they bring to every potluck.


From back when I used to bring my mom's classic white chocolate chip cookies to preschool on my birthday to now stirring up my signature tequila cocktails at every friends' barbecue, I've always had a couple of standby recipes in my culinary rotation.

Keep Reading... Show less

Meet My Cat: Cheshire, The Stray Turned House Cat Who Lives in Michigan

I never considered myself a cat person, but Chess immediately stole my heart.

Madelyn Darbonne

In 2016, a stray cat gave birth to a litter of three grey kittens on my aunt and uncle's property. I had never considered myself to be much of a cat person, but these furballs immediately stole my heart. I got to watch them grow up until they were old enough to leave their mother's side.

Keep Reading... Show less

How To Binge-Watch A TV Show —And Then Write A Review About It

Writing your favorite and least favorite things about a show could not be more fun.

Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

Looking for a new show to binge? Stop scrolling through your options and listen.

Sometimes a good show doesn't come down to the genre or the actors involved, it comes down to the fact that it is simply a GOOD show. If any of these things sound appealing to you, you should definitely watch.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

11 Reasons Why Getting A Cat Is The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Mental Health

Cats may mess up your puzzles but they'll always love you unconditionally — as long as you have some catnip, that is.

Scout Guarino

Alright, everyone, it's time to stop spreading the rumor that all cats are mean, aloof, and hate everyone. Like dogs, each cat has its own personality and tendencies. Some like a lot of attention, some like less — each person has to find the right cat for them. As for me, my cats Bienfu and Reptar have seen me at my worst, but they've also helped pull me out of it. They're a constant in my life and they give me the strength to get through the day in spite of my depression, and there's even scientific evidence to support it!

Keep Reading... Show less

I've been bleaching my hair since I was in seventh grade. Yes, you read that correctly, seventh grade. That's nearly 10 years of maintaining a very light shade of blonde that too-often brings about dryness and brittle strands.

Keep Reading... Show less

Chances are if you're here, you're probably interested in writing an open letter. Yay! We're excited to have you.

Of course, not all open letters are created equal. In fact, there's a recipe to writing one for Odyssey that'll get featured on one of our many verticals. When it comes to Swoon specifically (for those new around here, that's our dating and relationships vertical), we receive dozens of open letters each month, many of which are all very similar.

Keep Reading... Show less

With a new phone comes great responsibility: Do not break it! And the best way to do that is with a case. However, picking a case can be a challenge. No need to fret, I am here to help break down some of the best cases for the new iPhone SE 2020. Honestly, I think it's going to be impossible to choose!

Keep Reading... Show less

To some who have been out of the dating world for a while, it can be hard to get back into the swing of things after being single for some time. So, I asked 26 people what they think is important to know before looking for love again, here's what they had to say.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments