Women’s Prize 2021 Shortlist Review & Winner Prediction

So it’s that time of the year again! The Women’s Prize winner announcement is right around the corner, on September 8. I did actually succeed in my resolution not to read the entire longlist this year, but I somehow ended up reading 10/16, including the entire shortlist.

On the whole, from what I’ve read, I’m pretty ambivalent about this list — there were a couple of real highlights for me, but also a lot of duds, and I think the huge delay between the longlist announcement (March 8) and the winner announcement (September 8) deadened some of my excitement.

Round up of my 2021 Women’s Prize coverage:

Now here’s the shortlist ranked from what I would least to most like to see win.

6. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

This book just fell flat on its face for me — I admired what it was trying to do in its excavation of the dark realities of a small-town Caribbean tourist paradise, but I ultimately felt like its graphic portrayals of trauma were so extreme that they swallowed up the fictional elements, leaving me unconvinced by this story and these characters. That this sort of trauma is true to life, I have no doubt; but in a novel, it wasn’t able to convince me or hold my interest. I also didn’t get on with the writing style at all, meaning I solidly enjoyed reading this book the least.

5. Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

Another one that I felt did a poor job at balancing its social commentary with a compelling, convincing narrative; while reading both One-Armed Sister and Unsettled Ground I felt acutely aware that I was reading a fictional story about invented people; Jeanie and Julius never fully came to life for me, and I felt that this book was largely just spinning its wheels without really going anywhere. I felt like I ‘got the point’ fairly early on and then was just waiting for something bigger and better to materialize out of this story.

4. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This is the final entry to my ‘did not do a good job at balancing themes and story’ half of this list. While I felt that this book really excelled at its commentary on colorism and racial identity, it left a lot to be desired as a work of fiction. I had a lot of problems with this book — character development, writing style, heavy reliance on coincidence — but I think its biggest offense for me was how poorly it was structured. Of the three shortlisted books that I didn’t enjoy reading, The Vanishing Half would probably offend me the least as a winner: I think these are three really poorly written novels, if I’m being honest, but I felt that The Vanishing Half at least did the best job at its social commentary.

3. No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

A really interesting thought-experiment on the inextricable nature of “reality” and “online life”, that I felt didn’t cut any corners in its development of a very harrowing narrative that runs parallel to its commentary on The Internet. I was so impressed by this book but what it didn’t have, for me, was staying power; much as I loved it at the time, I hardly ever think about it now, and when trying to recall the shortlist off the top of my head, this is the one I always forget.

2. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

A richly imaginative work that really stuck with me in its poignant depiction of loneliness. I wasn’t sure about this one going in, but Susanna Clarke’s lush and confident prose lured me in and I ended up enjoying every second that I spent in this strange world. (I also recently realized something about what happens in my head when I read, which is that I visualize interior spaces very vividly, which is probably why this worked so well for me when I don’t tend to love descriptive writing.) But anyway, back to the Women’s Prize — I don’t expect this to win, but I think it would be an exciting and unconventional choice.

1. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

This book does what so many on this shortlist failed to do for me — it takes a heart-wrenching narrative and a wide array of themes and subjects and it synthesizes them into a singular, spectacular novel. This is one of the shorter books on the shortlist and still not a single one of its 264 pages is wasted — Gyasi’s prose is exquisite and her structure and pacing are impeccable. This manages to be both a hard-hitting exploration of the connection between science and faith, and also a moving story about a broken family, and I would love so much to see this exceptional book win next week.

Winner Prediction:

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I don’t particularly want to see this book win, but I think it’s inevitable. The Vanishing Half has been lauded for its well-constructed characters, for its compelling storytelling, and for its heart-wrenching depiction of the fractured bond between two sisters. I didn’t personally see or feel any of that, but obviously the judges do, or it wouldn’t have made it this far. The fact that it’s topical, that it’s SO successful in the U.S., and that it’s supposedly a heartbreaking story is the right combination of factors that will give it the edge up above the other shortlisters, I think. It’s hard to describe something that you can’t even fully see, but so many readers are finding a real magic in this novel that I’m really expecting it to take home the prize.

So to recap: the only two novels I’m actively rooting for are Transcendent Kingdom and Piranesi; I don’t expect No One is Talking About This to win and I think I’ll be some sort of combination of impressed and bemused if it does; I’m resigned to The Vanishing Half; and Unsettled Ground and How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House are the two that I’ll be the most actively irritated by.

But those are just my personal thoughts — as always, good luck to all the shortlisters.

What are you guys expecting and hoping to see win?

book review: No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood






NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THIS by Patricia Lockwood
★★★★★
Riverhead, 2021



I thought this book was brilliant but as I was reading, I found myself a little dismayed at the way I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it. So much has been made of the fact that this is a book in “two halves”–the first is an irreverent stream-of-consciousness-style series of pithy observations that mimics the experience of scrolling through Twitter, and the second is much more serious, focusing on a family tragedy. The temptation to explain this division away by describing the first half as Online and the second half as Real Life is understandable, but I think it does a disservice to what Lockwood has actually attempted and achieved here.

I don’t think it’s about the division of Online/Real Life as much as it is a commentary on the inextricable fusion of the two. The narrator’s framework for viewing the world through a heavily Online lens is established in the first half, and then the second half shows that in times of grief and hardship, she’s still existing within that same framework even while being forced to participate in “Real Life” with more immediacy than she had been used to. While I certainly agree that this is structurally a book made up of two halves, I thought the second half of the book was such a natural continuation of the first that I really admired how Lockwood managed to achieve such a natural coherence of two completely disparate narratives. 

And as an Extremely Online Person myself, I loved how much nuance Lockwood brought to this commentary. I feel like so many books and articles and essays about The Internet fall into one of two traps, either extreme reverence or utter condemnation. The reality is so much more nebulous–The Internet is this bizarre world that we all live in separate to our real lives but an intrinsic part of our real lives and I thought Lockwood captured that beautifully. 

This is absolutely not a book that I’d recommend to everyone (frankly if you aren’t interested in Online Culture, stay away), but it really struck a chord with me and I admired it so much more than I had expected to.

book review: Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller






Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller
★★★☆☆
Tin House Books, May 18, 2021






I didn’t hate this book at all but it was just so, so unremarkable. I loved the premise: Jeanie and Julius are 51-year-old twins living with their mother in rural England who drops dead one day and suddenly Jeanie and Julius are forced to navigate a world they don’t fully understand. It’s different and interesting but it just really fell flat for me.

The problem with Unsettled Ground is that there’s just no momentum. And I don’t mean that in the sense that it would have worked better as a page-turner murder mystery or anything like that; I’m an advocate of the literary-thriller hybrid genre and I think Fuller nails that tone here–there is a bit of a central mystery but it’s mostly a vehicle to explore the themes that she’s interested in interrogating. That’s all fine and well. But on a sentence-by-sentence level, this book dragged. There’s no sense that it’s moving forward toward anything, it just feels like it’s spinning its wheels and I did not at any point find myself compelled to pick it up.

Like I said, I did enjoy some of the thematic threads that Fuller explored in this novel and I don’t have an overwhelmingly negative feeling toward it; I just couldn’t bring myself to get invested at any point and I think this would be an incredibly lackluster addition to the Women’s Prize shortlist. 


Thank you to Netgalley and Tin House for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

book review: Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi





BURNT SUGAR
★★☆☆☆
Harry N. Abrams, 2021


I admired but didn’t particularly like this book. I’ve talked before about how I don’t really get on with books about motherhood, and sometimes the reverse is true too, I don’t always love books about daughterhood, especially when it’s the book’s main focus. (Something like Transcendent Kingdom is the exception, where the mother/daughter relationship is one thread among many.)

I was finding something salvageable in the first half of Burnt Sugar, but the second half just lost me. While I tend to enjoy ‘unlikable’ protagonists, Antara was often too much for me–I found her to be deliberately belligerent toward the reader in a way that I didn’t think was particularly interesting or well-executed. I think this book does have a lot going for it in terms of its chilly depiction of a strained mother/daughter relationship, but Antara herself staunchly refused to do any of the heavy lifting to earn my investment. I just didn’t find her believable or her actions comprehensible; this book is written in the first person and still I struggled to discern some of Antara’s motivations (this isn’t helped by the book’s awkward structure, flitting between the past and the present in a way that was occasionally challenging to follow and which I didn’t think ultimately did it any favors). 

Avni Doshi’s prose also failed to impress me, but, like most of my criticisms here, I feel that might just be a matter of personal taste. I do see why this book has been so critically well-received, it just really wasn’t for me.


Thank you to Netgalley and Abrams for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

book review: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke





PIRANESI by Susanna Clarke
★★★★★
Bloomsbury, 2020


I’ve never read Susanna Clarke’s much-acclaimed debut Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and I don’t always do well with the sort of speculative novel where the reader is thrust into an undefined circumstance and spends the majority of the book waiting for the full picture to cohere. And that is… pretty much exactly what Piranesi is, so, it’s a testament to this book’s brilliance that I loved it despite how ill-suited it is to my personal tastes. So if, like me, you read the first page of Piranesi and groaned because it read like a bunch of gibberish, I’m going to have to implore you to stick with it for a hot second and let it work its magic. (It’s short!)

The thing that quickly won me over is Susanna Clarke’s writing and how beautifully-rendered this imaginative setting is. I think it’s best to go into Piranesi knowing as little as possible, so I won’t really talk about the plot, but suffice to say it’s set in a giant House which is essentially a labyrinth of halls, each lined with hundreds of statues, and in the middle of the House is an ocean. I’m usually not one to relish in descriptive writing but this setting was just so striking, so delightfully offbeat, that I was drawn in pretty effortlessly. As others have said, this book is kind of like a puzzle, but not one that you should race through the book to solve; it’s the sort of reading experience that’s better savored. 

Without saying too much, what hit me the hardest about this book is its depiction of loneliness. It’s ostensibly a cerebral, ethereal, illusory book, but the longer I think about it, the more current and relevant it feels and its inclusion on the Women’s Prize longlist makes perfect sense to me. I’m delighted to have read it and it’s a book I know I’m going to want to return to.

book review: Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi





TRANSCENDENT KINGDOM by Yaa Gyasi
★★★★★
Knopf, 2020


This book absolutely floored me. I read it in under 24 hours, though it’s almost difficult to explain why: it’s not (ostensibly) a page-turner and there’s really no plot to speak of. But once I started reading I couldn’t stop; I found Gyasi’s prose so inviting and mesmerising and before I knew it I’d read the whole thing and it had utterly wrecked me.

The thing about Transcendent Kingdom is that it has no business working as well as it does. Gyasi tackles grief, siblinghood, loneliness, immigration, racism, science, religion, and opioid addiction, and it feels almost too ambitious for a book under 300 pages. Often when authors try to balance this many disparate threads, some get lost in the shuffle; it’s challenging to navigate each topic with the weight and respect they deserve, but that’s exactly what Gyasi does here–everything coheres seamlessly.

It’s a difficult book to review, though, because I’ve probably just made it sound like it’s a novel full of ideas and nothing else. But the most impressive thing Gyasi does is perform her thorough thematic excavation without sacrificing the narrative. Again, it’s not a plot-heavy book, but it’s effectively character-driven, and Gifty, a neuroscientist coping with the death of her brother and her difficult relationship with her mother, is a brilliant, vibrant, believable protagonist.

This is one of the most technically impressive and emotionally resonant books I’ve read in ages; it deserves all the hype and more.

book review: Consent by Annabel Lyon



CONSENT by Annabel Lyon
★★★★★
Knopf, 2021


Well, this was a weird one and its relatively low Goodreads rating is hardly a mystery; what I’m finding more difficult is talking about how brilliant I thought it was. Due to its title I was expecting Consent to be a book about sexual violence, which seems like a reasonable expectation, so I think it’s good to say upfront that it’s not at all — instead it’s a sort of domestic drama about two sets of sisters, Sara and Mattie (Sara is older and cares for her intellectually disabled younger sister) and Saskia and Jenny (twins). 

I’m not going to say anything about the plot, because reading the summary gives away a good chunk of the book, which I found sort of odd. It does take quite a while for Annabel Lyon to get to ‘the point,’ so to speak, but to summarize what happens at 20% is to do a huge disservice to the preamble, which, far from being irrelevant, is a wonderfully mesmerizing and offbeat introduction into these characters’ lives. This was one of the most pleasurable books I’ve read in ages; Lyon’s writing goes down easy but there’s also something acerbic just below the surface. The story itself twists and turns, but it’s still more literary than thriller; the mystery aspects are almost window dressing to the darker, weirder thing living at this book’s center. 

I can imagine what the critiques of this book look like: unfocused, joyless, slow, unresolved, odd. It’s not for everyone. It has no interest in answering the reader’s questions. But still it’s a striking, affecting examination of obligation and shame and guilt. I don’t really see it advancing to the Women’s Prize shortlist, but it’s one of the smartest and most confident books I’ve read in a while and destined to be one of my personal favorites off the list.

Women’s Prize 2021 Longlist Reaction

The longlist is here!

As usual, I like to start off with some stats (if I’ve made any errors, please let me know!):

British: 6
American: 5
Irish: 2
Canadian: 1
Bajan/Barbadian: 1
Ghanaian-American: 1

White authors: 11
Authors of color: 5

1 trans author (for the first time!)

5 debuts

I got 5 predictions correct

I’ve already read 2 books: Luster and Exciting Times.

Reaction per title:

  • Because of You by Dawn French: I think I’ve been living under a rock because I hadn’t actually… heard of Dawn French until today?! No strong feelings about this one; I doubt I’ll read it though, it seems a bit twee for my tastes.
  • Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi: Argh this is one that I cut from my predictions list at the last second and I’m kicking myself. Anyway, yes, very good, I’ve had an ARC for ages and I’m so looking forward to finally reading this.
  • Consent by Annabel Lyon: This is one of the titles that I’m most excited about. I haven’t read any Lyon before, though I’ve had her Alexander the Great novel The Golden Mean on my shelf for a while now, but I think this sounds fascinating and potentially very up my alley. I just checked this out from Overdrive, so it’s the one off the list that I’ll be reading soonest.
  • Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters: I keep hearing how fun and brilliant this is so I’m very happy to see it here, and seeing a trans woman longlisted for the first time is lovely and exciting; I’m very happy for Torrey Peters.
  • Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan: LOVED this book; it was one of my favorites of last year and one of my favorite debuts in a while. Very excited to see more people reading this one as I feel the initial hype around it tapered off rather quickly.
  • How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones: I’ve been seeing this around a bit but know nothing about it; I think I’ll reserve judgement until I read a few more reviews and get a sense of whether or not this book will work for me.
  • Luster by Raven Leilani: This book ultimately fell a bit flat for me, but I think that was more a fault in my expectations than in what the book was actually trying to do. I’m pleased to see it on this list and wouldn’t be surprised to see it shortlisted.
  • No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood: Very curious about this; will definitely try to read soon!
  • Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon: I’ve heard of this but it’s probably one of the Irish novels published in the last year that I know the least about, go figure. Still, it’s Irish, meaning I’m contractually obligated to read it, I think.
  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke: This is an exciting choice for the Women’s Prize, whether I personally end up liking it or not (I honestly can’t decide, but Hannah thinks I will and she gets my tastes better than most people, so, I’m going to trust her here).
  • Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers: I think this could be good, though it’s not one of the ones I’m going to reach for first.
  • Summer by Ali Smith: This was actually, hands down, the biggest shock of the list for me–I was under the impression that Ali Smith had stopped submitting her books for literary prizes, but I guess it must just be the Booker. Here is where I make the shameful confession that although I’ve massively enjoyed Ali Smith in the past, I haven’t actually read any of the Seasonal Quartet. I’d like to do that all at once, so I’m not sure if I’m going to use this as that opportunity, at long last, or if I’m going to wait a while. But yes, I’ll be reading these at some point.
  • The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig: So. I don’t know anything about this book, but Amanda Craig has been openly transphobic in the past (sources, easily googlable too: x, x), and I’m disappointed that the Women’s Prize would undercut the achievement of the first ever trans woman to be longlisted by forcing her to share the list with Craig. I won’t be reading this.
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: To no one’s surprise. This one’s been everywhere and I’ve mostly heard glowing things, so I will try to read this sooner rather than later.
  • Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi: You may recall that in my predictions post I had mentioned that I wasn’t interested in reading this (for no strong reason other than that the summer didn’t jump out at me as something I feel compelled to read immediately), but then I had a rather interesting conversation with Anna James about this book and she completely changed my mind; now I’m very eager to get to it!
  • Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller: Fuller’s an author that I’ve enjoyed in the past and have been meaning to read more from. I think this sounds great and I have an ARC, so I’m happy.

Overall thoughts:

I think on the whole this is a MUCH stronger list than last year’s and certainly more suited to my personal tastes as a reader. That said, I find the lack of diversity on this list disappointing; only 5(!) out of 16 books by authors of color is a record low for the Women’s Prize in recent years, and I don’t see a reason for it when we’ve seen all of the following published in the past year, any of which would have made an exciting addition over the multiple British mystery/crime novels on the list*: If I Had Your Face, A Burning, We Are All Birds of Uganda, The Mermaid of Black Conch, Little Gods, White Ivy, A Lover’s Discourse, His Only Wife, and The First Woman.

*not sure why we need Unsettled Ground, The Golden Rule, and Small Pleasures all on the same list–seems a little redundant? There are also more white British authors on this list, specifically, than there are authors of color.

Moving on: I also think The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel is a shocking snub–Station Eleven, which didn’t make the shortlist the year it was longlisted, in my opinion is one of the best books published in the past decade and The Glass Hotel is arguably even better, so for these 16 books to supposedly be better than that… I have very high expectations. I also think The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue is a surprising omission; it’s a great book for plenty of reasons but I’m surprised the judges were able to resist the pull of heralding the pandemic narrative as “a book for our times.”

What’s interesting to me about this list is that it’s very light on debuts (only 5, if I counted correctly), but it’s also light on esteemed, big name authors. No Marilynne Robinson, no Joyce Carol Oates (sorry Eric), no Curtis Sittenfeld, no Emily St. John Mandel, etc. I guess Dawn French (the one I hadn’t heard of), Susanna Clarke, and Ali Smith are probably the closest thing, but it’s still surprising to see a list that seems to be prioritizing giving under the radar, young- to mid-career authors their moment. Not sure what to make of that, honestly, and I won’t until I read more; I can see this list either being an unexpected knock-out or falling flat. Time will tell!

Read: Luster, Exciting Times

Priority: Burnt Sugar, Consent, Detransition, Baby, Piranesi, No One is Talking About This, The Vanishing Half, Transcendent Kingdom, Unsettled Ground

Maybe: How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, Summer (will read eventually, just maybe not in the near future, TBD), Nothing But Blue Sky, Small Pleasures

No: Because of You, The Golden Rule

What are your Women’s Prize thoughts and plans? Comment and let me know!

Women’s Prize 2021 Longlist Predictions

I’ve already talked a little bit about how I don’t plan on following the Women’s Prize this year as closely as I usually do… but at this point it’s tradition to make a predictions list and get everything spectacularly wrong, so, let’s do this.

I WILL be updating my Women’s Prize Complete Longlist history post here and its corresponding Google Doc here as soon as the list drops, so you can look forward to that, if that is the sort of thing you look forward to.

As of now, here are my predictions:

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  Sure! I’ve heard mostly positive things and I’d like the excuse to finally read it. That said, I’d like to read Nella Larsen’s Passing first, which I understanding The Vanishing Act is sort of in conversation with, so I might not get around to reading it before the shortlist drops if it does make the list.

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha

Has the author been longlisted before?  No (debut).

Would I be happy to see it?  YES. I loved this book and felt it didn’t get nearly enough attention. I thought it was a great snapshot of the withering effects of the Korean beauty industry on a group of young women.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  Hannah loved it and thinks I also would, so yeah, why not.

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

Has the author been longlisted before?  No (debut).

Would I be happy to see it?  This narrowly missed out on being one of my top books of 2020 so yes, absolutely.

Sisters by Daisy Johnson

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  I’m not sure… I did mean to read this ages ago and was looking forward to it but since then my interest has waned a bit. I think I’ve read a few too many lukewarm reviews. I’d still probably give it a shot though.

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  I don’t think I’ll read this, at least not right now, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it on there; the consensus seems overwhelmingly positive.

The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  I mean, you know me and Irish lit. I don’t know a whole lot about this one but I’ve heard good things.

Luster by Raven Leilani

Has the author been longlisted before?  No (debut).

Would I be happy to see it?  I was honestly a little underwhelmed by this book, but yeah, if it makes the list I think it will have earned its spot.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

Has the author been longlisted before?  No (debut).

Would I be happy to see it?  No. I can’t even explain why but I have a deeply intuitive feeling that I won’t get on with this.

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

Has the author been longlisted before?  Yes.

Would I be happy to see it?  This was my favorite novel of 2020, so yes.

The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  Definitely. Would love the excuse to read this.

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

Has the author been longlisted before?  Yes.

Would I be happy to see it?  Yes! Haven’t read this yet but Moss is great.

Jack by Marilynne Robinson

Has the author been longlisted before?  Yes (winner).

Would I be happy to see it?  I don’t have a horse in this race. I’ve never read Robinson and I do intend to, some day, but also don’t feel an urgent need to do that next month. So if it’s on the list I won’t read it, but I also won’t begrudge the Robinson stans their happiness.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

Has the author been longlisted before?  Yes.

Would I be happy to see it?  You literally could not pay me to read this book, so no.

The Yield by Tara June Winch

Has the author been longlisted before?  No.

Would I be happy to see it?  I know almost nothing about this, but it would be nice for at least one Australian novel to make the list.

We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan

Has the author been longlisted before?  No (debut).

Would I be happy to see it?  Also know very little about this one. No strong preference here.


What are you hoping and expecting to see on the list? Comment and let me know!

book review: The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo

41880044

 

THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD by Claire Lombardo
★★☆☆☆
Doubleday, 2019

 

I finished The Most Fun We Ever Had weeks ago, after a rather agonizing month-long reading experience, and despite my fondness for writing negative reviews, finding the motivation to review this book has been… a struggle; so happy was I to be blissfully done with it.  The only thing compelling me to write this review now is the promise that after I click post I will never have to think about this book and these inane characters ever again.

The most frustrating thing about this book to me was its wasted potential.  When I started reading it, I was sure I was going to love it in the same way I love soap operas; I’m a sucker for mindless, messy, salacious family drama.  This could have been 200 pages shorter; it could have been an unapologetically entertaining romp through the ripple effects of one daughter’s unplanned pregnancy 15 years after she gave the child up for adoption; it could have been a lot of things.  Instead it was agonizingly, embarrassingly sincere.  Meet David and Marilyn, the parents: they’re still disgustingly in love after all these years.  Meet their children: Wendy’s a fuck-up, Violet’s frigid, Liza’s naive, Grace is the baby.  Meet Violet’s illegitimate child, Jonah: he’s never known stability so he has trouble adjusting to it.  Congratulations, you have now read The Most Fun We Ever Had.

None of these characters undergoes any development.  Any.  At all.  This book is 532 pages.  That is 532 pages of painfully one-note characters arguing with each other about any given character’s one (1) allocated personality trait.  The repetition is insufferable.  And yet, this book really believes it has something to say?  The reader is simply bashed over the head with the most mundane and trite pontifications on life and love and growing up and it’s all so bizarrely earnest for the fact that none of it has any particular depth.

The one thing I will hand Lombardo is that her treatment of the family’s wealth was very self-conscious and well-executed; it’s tempting to dismiss this as a ‘rich people problems book’ (and it’s understandable if that’s a premise that just flat-out does not interest you), but I did feel like Lombardo did a good job contextualizing their struggles and providing a somewhat thoughtful commentary on class disparity.

But ultimately a pretty massive waste of time.


Women’s Prize 2020 reviewsDominicana | Fleishman is in Trouble | Girl | Girl, Woman, OtherHow We Disappeared | Red at the Bone | The Most Fun We Ever Had | Weather


You can pick up a copy of The Most Fun We Ever Had here on Book Depository.