Tag Archives: Lily King

WRITERS & LOVERS by Lily King

I know reading and books aren’t top of mind for many people right now, which is entirely understandable. I turn to reading in times of stress, and keeping up the blog is important to me to maintain normalcy and a sense of control over my life. So I’ll keep reviewing what I’m reading, and if you’re looking for book recommendations and escape for yourself, please keep reading the blog. I’ll understand either way.

Aspiring authors are often told to “write what you know”, so it’s not surprising that authors often write about writing. Sometimes that can be kind of boring to read, especially if you’re not a writer yourself. But Lily King’s new novel Writers & Lovers is anything but boring. It’s a glimpse into the writing process and a good reminder that books represent years and years of someone’s life and that being a writer can be a very difficult road.

Why I picked it up: I have read and enjoyed other books by Lily King (though not her best-know, Euphoria) and this was my March Book Of The Month pick. Catherine at Gilmore Guide To Books (mostly) liked it, and that helped.

Casey Peabody is 31 and single, waitressing, and trying to finish a novel to which she has devoted many years. Things aren’t going too well for her: she’s renting a potting shed in someone’s backyard in Cambridge, she’s waitressing so that she can write during the day, she isn’t making progress on her book, and she’s mourning the death of her mother and a relationship with a man who turned out to be married. In Writers & Lovers, every aspect of Casey’s life – her romantic relationships, her job and her writing – go through tumult and transformation, as she gets pulled inexorably into true adulthood.

I liked Writers & Lovers a lot. This book isn’t for everyone – some will be turned off by the lack of action and the gentle pace. I did read it pretty slowly, perhaps because it isn’t a page-turner and it’s not that hard to to put it down. But I liked the detail and the honesty in King’s depiction of Casey’s life, and I felt genuinely invested in her and how her life would turn out. The beginning of the book was a bit disorienting, as King doesn’t really introduce backstories and characters, but just drops them in. By the end, though, I was fully clued in and hanging on every word to find out what would happen.

Ok, that’s the best I can do with this review tonight. My next book will be a page-turner – I need the distraction.

Writers & Lovers was Book #12 of 2020.

THE ENGLISH TEATHER by Lily King

As I mentioned in my last post, my husband recently commented to me that all of the books I read are depressing. I responded with Tolstoy’s famous quote: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”  Why would reading about happy families be interesting? The books would all be the same.

However, he does have a point: I seem to be drawn to books about depressing topics. I just finished The English Teacher, by Lily King, which, for the most part, is depressing.  It’s about Vida, a fortysomething teacher at a small prep school who has raised her son alone since he was born. When her son is in high school (at the same school where she teaches), Vida accepts a marriage proposal from a local widower, and the book starts as her small family merges into his.

King is adept at recording the minute details of daily life, and her prose is filled with small observations that ring true and convey an immediacy to the reader.  In particular, the sections retelling how Vida’s son, Peter, becomes acquainted with his new home and his stepfamily, are perfectly, painfully described, as are his later awkward experiences at an off-campus party.

The book contains a mystery element as well — who is Peter’s father and why hasn’t Vida ever told Peter about him? — but the answer to this question becomes obvious early on, and the moment of the great reveal to Peter is anticlimactic.  My chief complaint about the book is that it unravels a bit about three-quarters of the way through, and then ties up just a bit too neatly at the end. (This is a complaint I have about many books). After getting emotionally involved with the characters and enjoying King’s wonderful writing, I was disappointed by an unrealistic turn of events and then a hasty finish.

Despite these complaints, however, I did like this book and would recommend it.  I read and enjoyed another of King’s books a few years ago called The Pleasing Hour, another domestic drama about a family shaken up by the introduction of an au pair.

Here is one passage from The English Teacher that I particularly liked:

Memory does its work underground. Beneath consciousness, a past moment finds its kin all at once.  Like a fish returned to its school, it frolics in remembered waters, and stirs up others. Above the surface, at first, there are only a few brief innocuous ripples which are all that you can allow yourself to know of the commotion below…

Has anyone else read any of Lily King’s books?