Recently I’ve been falling a little in love with literary fiction. I’m not usually the biggest fan, and I don’t normally review this genre on the blog, but lockdown has got me stepping outside my comfort zone. It all started with Boy Parts back in August (which I did review btw), then I went on to read Breasts and Eggs, and after the Women’s Prize for Fiction’s longlist was announced I figured I’d pick up a few of the nominated titles.
I decided I would pick the books based entirely on the blurbs, no reading other peoples reviews, so it would feel like I’d wandered into Waterstones and happened upon them. Is this the best way to buy books? maybe not, but it has made me really excited to sit down and fully immerse myself in their worlds. So, I figured I would make a little list of my purchases so you can see which blurbs ended up catching my eye, and what I’m planning on reading before they announce the winner in a few months. I may have already finished Luster and I’m about halfway through Detransition, Baby so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to rise to this challenge!
Luster by Raven Leilani
Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.
Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese—and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby—and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it—Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family—and raise the baby together?
Consent by Annabel Lyon
Saskia and Jenny are twins alike in appearance only: Saskia is a grad student with a single-minded focus on her studies, while Jenny is glamorous, thrill-seeking, and capricious. Still, when Jenny is severely injured in an accident, Saskia puts her life on hold to be with her sister.
Sara and Mattie are sisters with another difficult dynamic. Mattie, who is younger, is intellectually disabled. Sara loves nothing more than fine wines, perfumes, and expensive clothing, and leaves home at the first opportunity. But when their mother dies, Sara inherits the duty of caring for her sister. She moves Mattie in with her–but it’s not long until tragedy strikes.
Now, both Sara and Saskia, having been caregivers for so long, find themselves on their own. Yet through a cascade of circumstances as devastating as they are unexpected, these two women will come together. Razor-sharp and profoundly moving, Consent is a thought-provoking exploration of the complexities of familial duty, and of how love can become entangled with guilt, resentment, and regret.
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
A woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms “the portal,” where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts. When existential threats–from climate change and economic precariousness to the rise of an unnamed dictator and an epidemic of loneliness–begin to loom, she posts her way deeper into the portal’s void. An avalanche of images, details, and references accumulate to form a landscape that is post-sense, post-irony, post-everything. “Are we in hell?” the people of the portal ask themselves. “Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die?”
Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: “Something has gone wrong,” and “How soon can you get here?” As real life and its stakes collide with the increasingly absurd antics of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy, and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.