Louis & Louise
Let me start with a bold claim. This was one of my highlight reads of the year. I really loved this book.
The very idea of this novel – that you could explore a life lived as a woman, or a life lived as a man, fascinated me. I suspect most people (especially woman) have wondered how life might have been different if we were born another gender. This book explores this idea and whilst not all the moments and experiences are shared by both characters there are enough shared moments to reflect on the realties that our assigned gender offers.
The concept alone makes for a great read, but Cohen is also an artist at creating a space for the novel to grow in. The setting is so vivid, so real, that at times you feel you know the neighbourhood, can smell the paper mill, can hear the calls of friends and neighbours. Cohen has perfected the art of creating a small town that feels like the readers own small town and this novel is so much more powerful because of it.
At times this novel was a page turner, I wanted more, more, more and at other times I wanted the world to slow down and for me to be able to savour every single word on the page. It was great to experience such a contrast in the one reading.
One might expect with this book some more gender/sexuality type driven storylines and whilst there is some ‘flirting’ around with exploring these ideas the actual plot lines are less about those topics than I expected. But that’s not to say it’s anything less because it doesn’t explore these ideas – it’s just not one of ‘those’ books – and once I’d realised that I was fine with it. In fact more than fine. I just loved it for what it was.
About the Author
Julie Cohen grew up in the western mountains of Maine. Her house was just up the hill from the library and she spent many hours walking back and forth, her nose in a book. She studied English Literature at Brown University and Cambridge University and is a popular speaker and teacher of creative writing, including classes for The Guardian and Literature Wales. Her books have been translated into fifteen languages and have sold nearly a million copies; DEAR THING was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick. Julie lives in Berkshire with her husband, son and a terrier of dubious origin.