In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It's not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she struggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself - and Marie - to a danger all too real.
Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can't stop thinking about her senior project and its subject - classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby's own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires, and tragedies of the characters she's reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym "Marian Love," and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity. In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we've come, and how much farther we have to go.
I haven't read that many books told in dual perspective but after this book, I want to find more. Watching the two stories interweave and seeing parallels between the two main girls was incredible and I loved the way Robin Talley kept me guessing as to how these two characters would meet until the end. When I heard half this story was set in the 50s, that was what sold it to me. My friends and I often discuss how much we love the aesthetic of and stories from this time, but hate all of the prejudice and sexism, but this book address all of that while still keeping some charm. Janet's job at the Soda Shoppe and the descriptions of the city in this time were all wonderful and helped build the world around her struggles. While the actual love stories weren't as prominent as the arcs of yearning for love as well as learning to love oneself, I did love the love shown. But this time was also incredibly juxtaposed against Abby and her diverse friend group and supportive family.
And that is the main thing that Robin Talley did that I loved, the emphasis she placed on how different the world was. The hidden secrets Janet had and her fear of being found out, put next to Abby and her school's GSA all hanging out openly, was beautiful. These two girls lived very different lives but yet felt the exact same feelings and experienced heartbreak together in a sort of way, which I loved. The book easily weaves these two tales of self-discovery together, the characters seemingly growing together despite being more than fifty years apart.
In the end, I loved this book for its striking and real characters and storylines, and its literary references which showed just how important a book can be. I would recommend this to any and all lovers of historical fiction or contemporaries, as well as anyone who has seen the world change around them and wants to read about characters just like them.
I hope you're staying warm this winter, and have been reading a good book (or two!) Stay tuned for another fun post on Friday, and another book review next Wednesday by some of our other great bloggers.
check the book out here!