Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Notes: "Lizzy & Jane", by Katherine Reay

"Lizzy and Jane", by Katherine Reay, is the author's second novel. (You can read my review of her first book, "Dear Mr. Knightley", here.)

Her first novel was a delightful take on Jean Webster's Daddy Long Legs. (And not so much Austen, as you might suppose. But that was fine with me - there are so many Austen tributes, and rather fewer Webster tributes - and I love Webster.)

"Lizzy and Jane" was harder for me to get into than "Dear Mr. Knightley", but not because the writing was worse. Far from it: the writing was just as wonderful.

It's just that the subject was so very sad.

Cancer is a hard subject. On Saturday, I participated in a cancer fundraising walk, and watching all the survivors list their diagnoses was so moving. One of those survivors is my father. Another is my husband.

Who hasn't been touched by this horrible disease?

And Reay's writing is so good that it felt way too much like real life.

It was hard to make myself want to read about cancer.

And on top of that, I had trouble connecting with the main character.

But I'm glad I kept going, because each of those problems I had with the manuscript ended up being part of the point. Cancer is horrible, and a novel about it would be a bad novel if it didn't get some of that horror across.

And it turned out that the reason the main character was hard to connect with precisely because she was a person who'd cut herself off emotionally, due to her mother's death (from breast cancer) when she was so young.

It was realistic, and in the best of ways.

Properly, the book really came alive in the second half, as the main character herself came alive again: reconnecting with the family, rediscovering her love of making food, and (of course!) falling in love.

Speaking of the romance, one of the things I liked about it was that it wasn't the point of the book. It wasn't even in the book.

And then it was.

And then it was everything.

And I loved that! It's so real life: at one moment, you are just yourself. And the next? You are you-and-him, and then it is just so forevermore.

I liked that a lot.

And now I find I've written almost an entire book review without telling you much about plot or genre. But I hope I've said enough to let you know if you want to read this or not - and I'd lean towards read this.

Because I love reading Christian fiction that doesn't feel fake - even if it feels a little more beautiful than real life. Beauty is something we can all do with having a bit more of.

"Lizzy and Jane", by Katherine Reay? Recommended.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

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jen said...

I'm living with my father-in-law who has survived 5 years with cancer but is getting worse.

Jessica Snell said...

I'm so sorry, Jen.

Barbara H. said...

I'm here from Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books. I read this some months ago and enjoyed it - though not quite as much as Reay's first book. I'm glad you kept going, too - it was good to see the main character finally open up.

Susanne said...

This is on my to read list at the library. Thanks for the review.

Jessica Snell said...

Thank you, Barbara & Susanne. I appreciate you stopping by!