The review by Ian Williams in the Otago Daily Times (Saturday 23 November 2013) of The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt grabbed me — and not in a good way — with its opening sentence:
I meant to send this first novel back to the books editor, it seemed so obviously a “woman’s book”.
I was poised to get all outraged and shouty, on so many levels. But I’m a shallow creature, amenable to praise, so what followed quickly soothed any rage away. I’m delighted to say that Williams took to my “woman’s book” with gusto:
But it only took a few pages before The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt took over my life. I was “hooked” as they say, and read its 306 riveting and stimulating pages in virtually one sitting.
He concludes the review by giving the book:
…five stars and thumbs up. ★★★★★
Judging a book by its cover — how the cover art, cover blurb, the whole design aesthetic, all influence who picks the book up and how they respond to it — is a topic I should store up for a future blog post. And, while it’s hard to choose precisely where to start on the whole “woman’s book” issue, I responded yesterday by marching around the house misquoting Tom Baker’s mad Captain Redbeard Rum from Blackadder II: “Aarrr, you have a woman’s book!”.
So, perhaps a blog on the notion of a “woman’s book” is in order, some time. In the meantime, I’m just delighted that Ian Williams didn’t send the book back to the books editor, and that he liked what he read between the book’s covers.
I’m particularly pleased that Williams has given the book such a great reception in the venerable ODT, Dunedin’s newspaper. A section of the novel is set in the southern suburbs of Dunedin, where Lena lives for a time by those beautiful, energetic beaches. There’s even a (fictional) 1936 newspaper article from the ODT quoted in the novel. So it feels good to connect with Dunedin and the ODT via this review.
Read the full review online. And a big kia ora to Ian Williams for his glowing review.