Book Review Rules
The book may (or may not) work for me personally but that’s not to say it didn’t do wonders for (or fail) someone else.
Writers & Lovers: A Novel by Lily King
Would I recommend?
“‘So,’ he says, unwilling to let me get too far away. ‘How’s the novel?’ He says it like I made the word up myself.”
“‘You know,’ he says, pushing himself off his car, waiting for my full attention. ‘I just find it extraordinary that you think you have something to say.’
“I squat there and think about how you get trained early on as a woman to perceive how others are perceiving you, at the great expense of what you yourself are feeling about them.”
“Now I understand it’s how boys are raised to think, how they are lured into adulthood. I’ve met ambitious women, driven women, but no woman has ever told me that greatness was her destiny.”
“There’s a particular feeling in your body when something goes right after a long time of things going wrong. It feels warm and sweet and loose.”
“‘All problems with writing and performing come from fear. Fear of exposure, fear of weakness, fear of lack of talent, fear of looking like a fool for trying, for even thinking you could write in the first place. It’s all fear. If we didn’t have fear, imagine the creativity in the world. Fear holds us back every step of the way.'”
The struggle to write, to be a writer, is accurately captured in Writers & Lovers. The dedication. The doubt. The discipline. Equally important, the accurate representation of time. Our MC, Casey, works on her novel upwards of six years before finalizing it. This is not a main point of the novel, it is simply the realistic depiction of time that I appreciate. Personally, I think it’s odd how many people (writers and non-writers alike) seem to think a novel is produced in a year or less. The time it takes to develop a novel varies per author, true, but there is, in my opinion, this pervasive misconception that novels are regularly written in less than a year, I hear six months…a lot. Excuse my totally unfounded opinion but I do believe the wildly popular NaNoWriMo annual writing event has something to do with this widespread and recent misconception. Taking place in the 90s, Writers & Lovers perfectly demonstrates how a novel becomes a foundation for an author’s way of life, spanning years.
[By the way, people ask me every year – every year – if I’m going to take the ‘NaNoWriMo challenge!!! Omg, hashtag NaNoWriMo!!!‘ No. I take the writer-for-life challenge. My novel is going into it’s third year if you were wondering.]
As a whole, the reality presented in Writers & Lovers is a breath of fresh air. It’s very common in fiction to see writers presented as eccentric, romantic, disconnected, intelligent or unrealistic when in fact, every writer I’ve ever met is down to earth and full of self-loathing for having a passion that has little practical value. But that’s passion. Passion begs the ultimate question, how much of yourself are you willing to put into this thing? This is why so many let their passions die on the vine, they aren’t willing to pursue that which has no guarantee of success yet proves fulfilling (you have to be willing to try to find out). That’s life. That’s passion. That’s writing.
In this respect, Casey is perfectly written. She’s in debt and works around the clock as a waitress to make ends meet. Casey can barely provide for herself and yet Casey does all that she does just so she can have a few hours to write everyday. That’s the reality. The real life of a dedicated writer is not romantic at all, nor eccentric. Writing is not a terribly fun way of life. Writing is a passion, true, but writing, like any creative pursuit, is also an expensive habit you have to support, like a drug. Until you are established as an author you are not paid for the work.
I think this is why people often view writers as eccentric. To put all that work and effort into something that does not immediately pay. The very definition of insanity, am I right? All the more reason that I appreciate the realness of circumstance in Writers & Lovers.
The Lovers part of Writers & Lovers is also well written and is an excellent reminder of why I don’t date artists. The love interests were real and exhausting. Many artists use their art as a natural focal point of their feelings, not just their passion for the medium in question. Trying to combine the murky waters of two writers and hoping they find some clarity in each other’s artistic pools are slim. I see the clash of feelings and creative egos in Writers & Lovers and I am humored but also freshly reminded of my no-artists vow. Unless you’re the muse (it can be intoxicating I know) don’t date a writer or a poet. For your sanity, just don’t.
The pacing was excellent. I read Writers & Lovers in a couple of days but it was easy for me as I strongly identified with the main character. Reading Casey’s ending was an injection of hope all while being able to connect from a real and downtrodden present too. Refreshing in its own right. From an outside perspective, I could see where readers would lose patience with the story. All that self-imposed tension and crippling doubt. The years of struggle and strife. Depriving yourself of a great deal to live life on your terms. Turning down anything and everything that gets in the way. All that realness wouldn’t make for a very popular hashtag, but, and if for no one else, Writers & Lovers will connect with its intended audience, writers.
“I don’t write because I think I have something to say. I write because if I don’t, everything feels even worse.” – Writers & Lovers
The Not So Good
An extraordinary new novel of art, love, and ambition from Lily King, the New York Times bestselling author of Euphoria
Following the breakout success of her critically acclaimed and award-winning novel Euphoria, Lily King returns with another instant New York Times bestseller: an unforgettable portrait of an artist as a young woman.
Blindsided by her mother’s sudden death, and wrecked by a recent love affair, Casey Peabody has arrived in Massachusetts in the summer of 1997 without a plan. Her mail consists of wedding invitations and final notices from debt collectors. A former child golf prodigy, she now waits tables in Harvard Square and rents a tiny, moldy room at the side of a garage where she works on the novel she’s been writing for six years. At thirty-one, Casey is still clutching onto something nearly all her old friends have let go of: the determination to live a creative life. When she falls for two very different men at the same time, her world fractures even more. Casey’s fight to fulfill her creative ambitions and balance the conflicting demands of art and life is challenged in ways that push her to the brink.
Writers & Lovers follows Casey—a smart and achingly vulnerable protagonist—in the last days of a long youth, a time when every element of her life comes to a crisis. Written with King’s trademark humor, heart, and intelligence, Writers & Lovers is a transfixing novel that explores the terrifying and exhilarating leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another.
Christina Schmidt, MA