The Bossy Bookworm
Review of Writers & Lovers by Lily King
King immerses the reader in a sometimes-claustrophobic situation while providing enough character connection and appealingly messy complications to keep you hooked for whatever unfolds.
Casey Peabody is an aspiring writer struggling with her novel, her mother's recent death, crushing financial debt, and a love life that's in upheaval.
She's in the awkward, sometimes painful age and stage of shifting from young adulthood to being a grown-up, with all of the conflicting pushes and pulls on her attention, emotions, and energy.
For much of the book Casey is unraveling--her mother has died, she's estranged from her father, her grim financial state is overwhelming, her health is in question, her career path is uncertain, she lives in a forlorn former potting shed, and her love life is shifting from post-breakup-nonexistent to confusingly complicated. It was tough to witness Casey's struggles and pain (even fictionalized, the disastrous trifecta of money, health, and love woes raise my blood pressure unpleasantly). Yet King offers enough glimpses of joy and growth and promise to help you hold on.
King also wrote Euphoria, which I read with my book club a few years ago and which I gave four stars. That was suuuuch a different book (dark historical fiction set in 1933 New Guinea), but as in Writers & Lovers, the characters felt sometimes-competing professional desires and clashing romantic tensions that roiled throughout. In both of these books King immerses the reader in a sometimes-claustrophobic situation while providing enough character connection and appealingly messy complications to keep you hooked for whatever unfolds.
There's a constant tension (one that exists in both of these King novels) that made me worry whether the presented situation would explode in tragedy or fizzle into something calmer. In neither case did I feel confident at all that I could bank on a happy ending. I breathed sighs of relief as Casey began to come into her own and listen to herself, and as her life started to look like one she could fall in love with.
King must be a former waiter; Casey's experiences working in a restaurant and the twisted but familial community forged among the stresses and frantic pace of that world felt so real. And I loved how much book talk (both writing and reading) took place in this story.
Any Bossy thoughts on this book?
I listened to this as an audiobook read by Stacey Glemboski, and her narration was wonderful.
File under "I did not realize this, but I like it": King was an English major at UNC.
I mentioned this book (along with Marie Lu's Skyhunter and Lily King's Writers & Lovers) in the Greedy Reading List Three Books I'm Reading Now, 11/17/20 Edition.