Review: Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Title: Writers & Lovers
Author: Lily King
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Rating: ☕☕☕☕ (4.5/5)
Content Warnings: *highlight to view* {grief, peeping (recalled), themes of suicide and depression (mused)}

BLURB

Recently out of a devastating love affair and mourning the loss of her beloved mum, Casey is lost. The novel she has been writing for six years isn’t going anywhere, her debt is soaring, and at thirty-one, with all her friends getting married and having kids, she feels too old for things to be this way.
Then she meets Silas. He is kind, handsome, interested. But only a few weeks later, Oscar – older, fascinating, troubled – walks into her life, his two boys in tow. Suddenly Casey finds herself at the point of a love triangle, torn between two very different relationships that promise two very different futures. And she’s still got to write that book . . .
(via Goodreads)

THOUGHTS

It’s a particular kind of pleasure, of intimacy, loving a book with someone.

Lily King’s Writers & Lovers features 31-year old Casey Peabody – an aspiring writer stuck in dead-end day job, while trying to finish her novel she’s been writing for about 6 years. Burdened by mounting debts, she also just got out of a relationship and dealing with grief over her mother’s untimely passing. Despite everything, she found herself amidst a love triangle, which further contributed to her declining mental health. It personally feels weird to say that this is a coming-of-age story because I was so used to having coming-of-age stories be targeted to teens and early 20s – basically those painfully transitioning to adulthood. But it was the perfect label for this book. And what it pointed out was that no matter the age, we take time to grow into our own and that no one person’s journey would look the same. I love reading stories with adult characters like this because they make me feel less anxious about unknown variables in my life – that despite wherever we are in life at the moment, there will always be something to figure out and to work for.

Casey also loves to talk muse about authors’ lives and books and how their lives ad works resonated with her – and those are particular moments I enjoyed. I love sensing her love of the written word and just the mere act of writing (and even reading). (“I don’t write because I think I have something to say, I write because if I don’t, everything feels even worse.“) Jury is still out whether this book could be categorized as “romance” (for the record, I don’t think it is). There are definitely romantic elements in this book that drove the narrative forward but those are merely to demonstrate the turmoil in the main character’s life – that sense of indecisiveness that plagues her constantly.

It’s good to be whacked open at least once, though,’ she says. ‘You can’t really love from inside a big thick shell.’

Lily King managed to conjure a deeply relatable character in Casey. It’s the same fears, the same insecurities, sometimes even the same sense of grief. (“I’m scared that I can’t even handle this right now, how will I be able to handle bigger things in the future?“) I love her conversation with that shrink: “Bigger things in the future? What’s bigger than this?” And then he managed to enumerate all the things Casey is trying to overcome and cram her life into and then finally said “I don’t know, my friend. This is not nothing.And perhaps that was one of my biggest takeaways: that “this is not nothing.” Sometimes we’re quick to dismiss our feelings, our situations and all the little things we did (and are trying to do) to move forward. That sometimes we don’t give enough credit to ourselves. And all throughout the book, we see Casey struggling and trying to make sense of her action – not acknowledging the fact that she is basically on auto-pilot most of the time. And the moments, which are far in between, when she allows herself to feel and open up felt like taking a full, deep breath after holding it all in for far too long: painful but a necessary and welcome step. It honestly is a long book, what with no distinct plot, but only of a woman coming into her own and finally letting good things into her life willingly. The time that went into reading this was worth it even just for that payoff.

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.  […] For a moment all my bees have turned to honey.

Overall

I always tend to write about how a book resonated with me (Casey would be proud, I guess), but enough of that – because I feel that this book has more to offer than all the familiar ways Casey aligns with me (which I’m not sure if I can be proud of). The Guardian review said that “reading this book feels like waiting for the clouds to break – a kind of gorgeous agony” and it feels exactly just like that. I personally love Lily King’s writing style. I’m all for quiet books that give off a vivid feeling or a moment – and there were a lot of moments like that in this book. At one point Casey mused “a sadness within the prose separate from content” and I can’t get over how it mirrors my feelings towards this book most times. That undercurrent of ~something~ that is present throughout. I do think that this can be a bit polarizing – in a way that some people might think it dragging. But this is a truly lovely book for me. And I am excited to explore more of Lily King’s other books in the future! Recommended. 💛

RATING

(And that additional .5 in my rating was mainly because of that last 50+ pages)

QUOTABLE QUOTES

The hardest thing about writing is getting in every day, breaking through the membrane. The second-hardest is getting out. Sometimes I sink down too deep and come up too fast. Afterward I feel wide pen and skinless. The whole world feels moist and pliable.

It’s hard to pull my eyes from it. I don’t know why it’s so moving for me, and I could bnever explain. There’s a madness to beauty when you stumble on it like that.

You don’t realize how much effort you’ve put into covering things up until you try to dig them out.

I see it, hear it, taste it. It pulses out like a song that’s been stick in the back of my mind.

That conversation eats away at the protective coating the run gave me, and I’m feeling pretty jagged when I get in Oscar’s car.

~ THIS feeling – how this sentence perfectly captures what I feel sometimes – that fragile sense of confidence and sureness, somehow instantly shattered by mere passing words. THIS.

Fitzgerald said that the sign of genius is being able to hold two contradictory ideas in your head at the same time. But what if you hold two contradicory fears? Are you still some kind of genius?

GET THE BOOK >> Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Indiebound | Waterstones | Fullybooked (available upon request)


About the Author

Lily King is the award-winning author of five novels. Her most recent novel, Writers & Lovers, was published on March 3rd, 2020, and her first collection of short stories, Five Tuesdays in Winter, will be released on November 9, 2021. Her 2014 novel Euphoria won the Kirkus Award, The New England Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award. Euphoria was named one of the 10 Best Books of 2014 by The New York Times Book Review. It was included in TIME’s Top 10 Fiction Books of 2014, as well as on Amazon, NPR, Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, and Salon’s Best Books of 2014.

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭 and currently based in Belfast. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at https://pagesandcoffeecups.com/ .

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