I remember enjoying Lily King’s Father of the Rain very much but the bestselling Euphoria, based on a brief episode in the life of Margaret Mead, didn’t appeal. King’s name stayed with me as one to look out for and when I saw Writers & Lovers described as ‘gorgeous’ by the splendid Elizabeth Strout I stuck up my hand for a proof. This warm, witty novel is about a young woman, lost in grief and mired in debt, with one sure thing in her life: the novel she’s been working on for six years.
Casey waits tables at Iris, pulling a double shift whenever she can, chipping away at her student loans. She wakes up every morning trying not to think about money, the man who broke her heart or her mother who died suddenly aged only fifty-eight. She’s a mess, only kept together by working on her novel, her writing friend Muriel and Harry with whom she bitches at work about the infighting of their fellow waiters. When Muriel takes her to a book launch she meets Silas and feels the first spark of romantic interest since she discovered ex’s marriage. Then a few weeks later the book’s author, Oscar, turns up at Iris, sons in tow, to celebrate his birthday. Casey is a hit with both the widowed Oscar and his boys who see the possibility of a mother. Caught between her attraction to the on-again, off-again Silas and Oscar’s readymade family, Casey doesn’t know which way to turn, let alone how to finish her novel. Things come to a head when she’s fired from the restaurant. Maybe it’s time to be brave.
In fact, Holly Golightly is one of his names for me. If we lived together I would expose myself as the blighted Jean Rhys character I really am
King’s novel sets us up for a romantic comedy with its love triangle, neatly balancing humour with an undercurrent of melancholy. Casey’s grief is well done, her aching longing to discuss things with her mother poignantly mirrored in Oscar’s sons’ desperate need for a mother. King’s characters are sharply observed, the gossip and scrapping of restaurant life smartly described along with the insecurities of writing and the literary world. She takes her time developing Casey’s character so that we come to care about her, cheering her on when she finally turns a corner. One of those satisfyingly absorbing books you can wrap yourself up in and forget about the world, it’s a delightful escape from our current troubles. If you need any more persuasion, both Rebecca at Bookish Beck and Ann at Café Society loved it, too
Picador: London 2020 9781529033106 256 pages Hardback