10 Summer 2016 Releases

As this post goes live I will be in Cardiff doing some relaxing and book buying in the best of companies. Living in Spain has been making it more and more difficult to purchase books in English physically. On the one hand, because of the lack of diversity local bookshops offer, and, on the second-hand, because of the taxes – anything labelled “culture” gets a 21% tax in Spain – make small paperback editions cost up to 15 € (12 pounds). So, while I am doing some book browsing and book buying I thought I would give you a list of 10 summer releases that I love or can’t wait to read. Most are being published in the UK this summer, but there are a few American releases that you can either buy online or keep an eye on. Believe me, they’re worth some hunting:

  1. Modern Lovers by Emma Straub – Out 30th June (UK)9780718181482

    A tale of modern love story set in contemporary Brooklyn with two generations of people who have more in common than they ever thought. Also, an ode to change in life. My review here.

     

     


  2. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott – Out 28th July (UK)You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

    Devon Knox is a young gymnast with one big dream: enter the Olympic team. But, is her middle-class American family ready to share that dream? A perfect tale of ambition, femininity, mother-daughter relationships and what it takes to become who you think you are. My review here.
    Extra: Interview with Megan Abbott about the book here.


  3. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty – Out 28th July (UK)26247008

    I love Liane Moriarty. I think Big Little Lies has done a marvellous job of proving that 21st century crime fiction is also a place where domesticity, school runs and parents evening can exist… and be terrifying. I am saving this one for my 2-to-4 free weeks in August.


  4. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda –Out 28th June (USA)23212667

    I was sent a review copy of this book by the Los Angeles Review of Books and I loved it. It is a story about returning home, family secrets and lost love told backwards. Probably Reese Witherspoon’s next purchase for her production company too. Keep an eye on the Los Angeles Review of Books for my review next month.


  5. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware – Out 30th June (UK)UK and US covers for The Woman in Cabin 10

    A combination of a locked room mystery on a luxury boat, too much champagne, and the social consequences of being a young woman and a witness to a crime. Or not. My review here.


  6. Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman – Out 7th July (UK)26198780

    I have never read anything by American author Laura Lippman and it is about time. It comes highly recommended by Megan Abbott herself. Her last novel tells the story of Luisa Brant, recently widowed and recently newly elected – and first female –State Attorney, who will find a case closely connected to her family and her past.


  7. The Girls by Emma Cline – Out 16th June (UK)

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    A re-imagining of the Manson Family ranch and the subsequent killings that led to the imprisonment of three young women in California in the summer of 1969. Beautifully written and a rival to Abbott’s talent to faithfully portray the female teenage experience. My review here.


  8. The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown – Out 14th July (UK) 27833796

    The Weird Sisters was one of the first novels that I reviewed for Books & Reviews, and Eleanor was the first author to say yes to an interview. Now she is publishing her second novel, inspired by her own grandmother’s experience in 1920’s Paris. The perfect book to remember that summer a few years ago when I read all I could find about flappers.


  9. Buy Buy Baby by Helen MacKinven – Out 7th July (UK) CjuN_FuWsAATIN_

    A story about motherhood and the capitalisation of women’s bodies merely as reproductive outlets. A must-read for anyone with an interest in the new reproductive technologies.


  10. My Husband’s Wife by Jane Cory – Out 25th August (UK) My-Husbands-Wife2

    This novel has been on my TBR pile since April, but it never really got my attention. After reading some wonderful reviews of lately, it has jumped to the top of the pile. Everyone describes it as a complex take on marriage, with a lot of character building and intersecting stories.

 

 

 

After You Die by Eva Dolan (Zigic and Ferreira #3)

I started reading Eva Dolan’s Zigic and Ferreira series last September, when I was sent a review copy of the second instalment in the series, Tell No Tales, now shortlisted for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. Shortly afterwards I was also sent a review copy of After You Die – book #3 –, but I decided to give it some time before returning to Zigic and Ferreira.

After You Die by Eva Dolan

After You Die picks up seven months after Tell No Tales leaves Mel Ferreira injured by an explosion. After surgery, physiotherapy, and too much time at her parents’ house, she is ready to back to work. Meanwhile, Zigic is expecting his third child, this time a girl, with his wife Anna. As each of them face these life changing events, they will do their best to solve the killing of Dawn, a young mother whose disabled daughter was left to die in the first floor of their house, while the mother bled to death in the ground floor.

Dolan has made of socially critic crime fiction her trademark, and she is not afraid to show the dark, twisted side of contemporary society. As a crime fiction reader, I can think of only another female British writer – Sarah Hilary – who does an effort to explore what is wrong in twenty-first century Western society. As a feminist, I have come to realise it is also Dolan and Hilary who make the greatest effort to portray how women are at a special risk in such contexts. After You Die is not an easy read because the author depicts disability from an intersectional point of view, showing that the lack of physical movement is just the tip of the iceberg. Holly, the disabled daughter of the victim, was just sixteen when she broke her back, and Dolan explores how it has affected her life: how everyone assumes sexuality and sexual needs are erased from disabled people, how their dreams are taken with a pinch of salt, how patronising people can be. And how it would affect a teenager girl and her mother.

Motherhood and pregnancy are also important themes, with Zigic’s own worries about heavily pregnant Anna haunting the investigation. Dolan explores what motherhood means for different people, including fostered children. But, she also explores the expectations that come from motherhood, that are ironically very similar to those of disable people: erasing of sexuality and sexual needs, total devotion to the care of a person, lack of physical freedom to go out and have a life outside the house, etc. Although I am aware that motherhood does not mean this to every woman, Western society has built ‘good’ motherhood around sacrifice. So, when Dawn is faced with taking care of Holly and motherhood and disability intersect, we are questioned about our own expectations about them, with Dawn’s right to reconstruct her life after her divorce and after Holly’s accident as she very well pleases. However, not everyone around her seemed to agree, and her personal and intimate life and choices are examined during the investigation, revealing people’s unfair expectations and prejudices about motherhood and female agency and identity.

After You Die is the best novel in the Zigic and Ferreira series until now. A true page-turner, I took my time enjoying the complicated investigation and thinking about the questions Dolan poses to the reader, but I ended up reading the book in a few sittings. Fast-paced, complex, and subversive, After You Die is the perfect example of Dolan’s trademark crime fiction: high quality, challenging, and very, very addictive.

This is review #1 for my  20 Books of Summer project.

Shame by Melanie Finn

When I read a quote from Shame by Melanie Finn on Elizabeth Preston’s and Simon Savidge‘s Twitter feeds, I knew I had to get my hands on it. After some research I found out that the book had been published last year and that the team behind it thought it was one of the best things they had ever published. Thanks to Weidenfeld & Nicholson for the review copy.

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The first pages of Shame describe how the main character, Pilgrim Jones, sees a small gesture between her husband and an unknown woman in a meeting in Switzerland. It was something small, maybe a smile, maybe the way they were too close, but Pilgrim knows there is more there. Fast forward ten months and her husband has left her for Elise, who is now pregnant with their child, and Pilgrim has been left to live in a small Swiss village where she no longer feels comfortable. Fast forward a few months, and we find Pilgrim travelling through Tanzania, trying to make something of her new life after she did something terrible back in Europe.

Shame is one of the most powerful psychological novels I have ever read. Although I expected the African setting to be one of the main characters, Finn – who has been living in Africa most of her life – has managed to normalise it, yet she has included magic and religious traditions that will still make the narrative exotic. What we experience when reading Shame is Pilgrim’s own feelings with loss at its core, and the dread of the mundane and everyday life that comes from the grieving process. But, Pilgrim is not just mourning her marriage, she is also trying to hold herself accountable for what she did. Is there shame on it? Did grieve make her do it? How is she supposed to feel? I especially enjoyed the interrogation of how one is supposed to feel in those hard, crucial moments in life.

However, I had one big problem with Shame: it tells more than Pilgrim’s story. Although the first half is completely devoted to her, the second half tells the stories of the people she has been meeting during her journey. Among them is a female African doctor who has to do with almost no medicines, and who can only see her patients die while she holds their hands. Among them is also the detective investigating what happened to her in Switzerland, so that part of the second half of the novel feels like a crime fiction book:

Detail established the truth. The colour of the dog. Without detail, truth was a metaphysically unstable idea: too general, too big; cause and effect going all the way back to first dates, to ancestors surviving winter storms, to dinosaurs, to organisms in a puddle.

All of the other characters are also in Africa, and al of them are secondary characters during Pilgrim’s narrative, but Finn gives them the space to find their own voices and tell their stories. I think what Finn wanted to do was to show that everyone has a story, no matter their nationality, no matter their ethnicity. Grieve can be all-consuming and isolating, but also selfish. Pilgrim is trying to find her new identity as a young, American, divorced woman, but so are other characters.

Shame is a complex psychological novel that explores grief and self-understanding in a unique way. The text, haunting and suffocating, reminds the reader that feelings may be contextual, but are above all personal. We do not have to feel shame just because we feel we should. And that’s fine.

The journey is all, the end is nothing.

 

 

20 Books of Summer Challenge: My Reading List

I don’t usually join challenges. I usually have to schedule my life in order to get all the work I need to get done, so I like to give myself a free pass when it comes to leisure reading. But, Cathy Brown has invited me to join her 20 Books of Summer Challenge and I couldn’t say no. The real reason why I am joining is to return to the blogging community – as I have been a bit off of lately – and try to be more active over here.

Because Cathy is a very wise blogger, she offers three modalities to join the challenge: 20, 15 or 10 books of summer. Since I will be working on my PhD next July, and probably next August too, I am joining the 10 Books of Summer modality. All of them will be leisure reading and I hope they help me to relax and disconnect a bit from all the thesis reading and writing I will be doing.

In recent months I have discovered that in order to relax I need to read a bit of non-crime fiction in my leisure time. This has been hard, because I really, really love crime fiction, but as someone told me once: there is no clear line between your job and your leisure time. Sometimes this is good, sometimes it is a terrible idea that ends up with me binge-watching TV shows for 8 hours straight – I watched season 4 and 5 of Girls last Saturday – rather than picking up a book. So, in the spirit of taking things easier this summer, I have created an eclectic reading list that has one thing in common: all books have been written by women. I am also indicating where the books come from, as I find it very important to find a balance between review copies (mostly requested, but some offered by publicists), borrowed books from the library, and books I have bought or my beloved ones have gifted me.

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1. After You Die by Eva Dolan (Zigic and Ferreira #3) [Review Copy] .- This is a bit of a cheat, since I started this book the last week of May. But I have wanted to read the third installment in the Ziggic and Ferreira series for a long, long time.

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2. My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem [Bought/Gifted].– As a feminist, I can’t quite believe I have never read anything by queen of 20th century feminism Gloria Steinem. My Life on the Road is a memoir that starts with this wonderful and inspiring idea:

When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel.

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3. Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty [Review Copy] .- I love Liane Moriarty’s books, and I even wrote an academic paper on her previous novel Little Lies. I will probably end up writing something about this one too, but for now I just want to enjoy it.

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4. Asking for It by Louise O’Neill [Bought/Gifted].- You couldn’t have paid me enough to read a YA novel until I discovered Irish writer Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours. In her second novel, she writes about rape culture and how a young victim of rape reacts the morning after within the Catholic Irish context.

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5. Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman [Review Copy].- More crime fiction, this time from a great American author whose work I have never read, but comes highly recommended by fellow author Megan Abbott. The only thing I know about this novel is that the past comes to haunt the main female character in a small town.

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6. The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown [Review Copy].- I read Eleanor Brown’s first novel The Weird Sisters years ago, and she was the first author I got to interview for the blog. When her publicist contacted and offered a review copy of her new novel inspired by her grandmother’s live I couldn’t refuse.

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7. All the Rage by Courtney Summers [Bought/Gifted].- More on rape culture, this novel explores the psychological development of a rape victim in Canada. Quite a different context from O’Neill’s book if it not were for the generalisation of rape culture.

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8. Charlotte Brontë: A Life by Claire Harman [Review Copy].- I was reminded of my love for Charlotte Brontë after reviewing Reader, I Married Him, a collection of short stories inspired by Jane Eyre. I realised then that I would love to know more about Charlotte, and this biography came highly recommended.

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9. The Awakening by Kate Chopin [Bought/Gifted].- It’s been 6 years since I first read Chopin’s tale of feminist awakening and I still think of Edna Pontellier a lot. Maybe it is time for a re-reading.

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10. Three Guineas by Virginia Wolf [Bought/Gifted].- I read and fell in love with A Room of One’s Own a few years ago, and I didn’t get to read her other famous essay Thee Guineas. I think an essay will be perfect to read more than fiction this summer.

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Disclaimer! Because rules are meant to be broken, here are some alternative readings that I am also really looking forward to:

EXTRA 11: The Age of Innocence/ The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton [Library].- I have wanted to read a 19th century novel for a while now, and I can’t believe I haven’t read anything by Wharton yet.

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EXTRA 12: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood [Library].- Margaret Atwood and Kate Atkinson are my go-tos for comfort reading. I know I will love their works, and they will inspire me to keep writing and reading.

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EXTRA 13: A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson [Review Copy].- Everyone has loved Atkinson’s last novel so much that I haven’t brought myself to read it yet. But I know I should.

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EXTRA 14: Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood [Library].- Just in case I need some writing inspiration, I can’t think of a better person to help me than Atwood.

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For more information on all these books, you can check my 10 Books of Summer Challenge reading list at Goodreads here.

Quick Personal Update: Summer is Here!

For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to post a review per week and visit your blogs as frequently as I could. But it somehow felt cold and distant, because I usually share more than just reviews here. This week I also have a book to review, don’t worry,  but it’s June already and I have realised I had not posted a Personal Update since February. Isn’t it about time?

The first thing I want to tell you is that I finished watching the first episode of Marcella last night and I am in love. I had heard wonderful things about both the TV show as a crime show, and Marcella as a female character. I even read this piece on The Pool about Marcella’s parka, which I desperately need right now even though it is summer and I would probably melt. Also, can we talk long hours about her fringe? It’s just perfect.

Marcella

I have been reading and writing lots for my PhD thesis, submitting papers, articles and proposals. So much so, that I have fallen into a writing routine that makes me feel productive and happy. The only trouble here is the 9 hours of sleep I need every night in order to remain nice and not a monster, and my incapability to get out of bed unless I have a train to catch because there is only one each hour and I can’t afford to lose it. Actually, losing that train could cost me a morning’s work. Staying in bed half an hour more? Is it really going to change much, isn’t it? (Yes, it is… I am learning it the hard way).

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Look out! It’s sunny and warm and everyone is passing their final exams – good luck to everyone taking them – and I am still working from morning til evening. I read and write every day, but I have been out of a job since December, so I am also trying to find any kind of job related to editing or writing. No such luck for the moment, I’m afraid. However, I have had some positive feedback on my CV, which is always a nice thing to hear.

A lot of new books have arrived, and I have not told you anything about them, but there is a reason. There is always a reason. Meanwhile, I am reading After You Die by Eva Dolan, the third installment in the Zigic and Ferrera series, and it is even than you could imagine. Dolan is mastering the art of writing diverse, complex and socially responsible crime fiction. No wonder her last novel Tell No Tales is shortlisted for the Theakstones Novel of the Year Award. Congrats, Eva!

Tell No Tales

By the end of June I will back in the UK and I cannot wait to reunite with my friends and colleagues. Also, let’s be honest, I can’t wait to spend a few hours in Waterstones. Are there any novels that I should be buying on the spot?

I will be joining Cathy Brown’s #20BooksofSummer this week. Cathy is challenging us to read 10, 15 or 20 books this summer. You can read more about the event here. I am signing up for 10 books, as I don’t usually count what I read for my PhD as ‘books read’.

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So, that’s everything for now. I hope it’s not 4 months until I post a personal update again because I want to keep the blog as updated with my reading and writing life as it is possible. Happy reading x

 

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Last summer I discovered author Ruth Ware whose debut novel In a Dark, Dark Wood made quite an impact in crime fiction in a year that had been mainly dominated by the success of The Girl on the Train. Back then I knew Ware was writing her second novel, to be published by Harvill Secker in 2016. Imagine my surprise when I was one of the lucky bloggers to get an advanced review copy of The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware’s second novel out on the 30th June 2016.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Cover of my ARC for Ruth Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10 follows In a Dark, Dark Wood‘s focus on a young, white woman who tells the story in the first person. Laura “Lo” Blacklock is a young travel journalist living in London who finds a stranger ransacking her flat late one night. Even though the intruder does not cause her any physical harm on purpose, she had drunk a lot that night and she finds herself unable to draw a clear line between fact and fiction, or so she thinks. A few days later she is supposed to board the Aurora Borealis, a super luxurious cruise for the 1%, and write a report, do some networking and fight for a promotion. As the cruise set sails from Hull to Norway and Lo realises she has left her mascara at home, she borrows some from the woman in the cabin next to hers. After dinner, and a bit drunk again, she returns to her cabin where she hears a splash on the water and comes out to her private balcony to find a big smear of blood on the glass separating the balconies. But the cruise security informs her the cabin has been empty since they set sail. Did Lo really hear the splash and saw the blood, or is she just suffering from PTSD?

Ware’s second novel fits into the neo-domestic noir tradition of lately, with an unreliable female narrator. However, these neo-domestic noir novels are doing much more for female characters than they seem to by portraying the supposedly unsuitability of young women for crime narratives. Like Rachel and Nora, Lo knows that she is not the best of witnesses, but at least she is one. The corpus delicti – the requirement of someone having witnessed a crime and not the presence of a corpse, like it is usually interpreted – is a gendered jurisprudence, and women are, more often than not, seen as unreliable witnesses and even victims. So, how does this affect women in fiction and in real life? How come many rape victims decide to not come forward for fear of not being believed? Thankfully contemporary crime fiction is calling attention to this gender-biased and it is forcing modern audiences to rethink their assumptions about women and crime.

The Woman in Cabin 10 is also very aware of the crime fiction tradition to which it belongs, and Ware not only plays with the role of women in crime fiction, but with more formal features. After all, a crime committed in a small, closed space pays homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and the locked room mystery. Ware updates this tradition so that it feels fresh, while keeping a line-up of exotic and bizarre characters that make Lo feel alienated and tricked. After all, not everyone belongs to the 1%. So, although the novel is quite dark and the alcohol and the cruise confer the text a dizziness that easily affects the reader, Lo’s rich and extravagant fellow passengers offer a quirky and funny tone to the novel.

In short, The Woman in Cabin 10 clearly shows the evolution of Ware as a contemporary crime writer, and it is a thrilling read for neo-noir fans this next summer. However, Ware’s novels are darker than they seem, being a bit overwhelming – in the way excellent crime fiction is. After In a Dark, Dark Wood was picked up by Reese Witherspoon for production, I can’t wait to see what the Hollywood stars will do regarding The Woman in Cabin 10. I would not think it twice.

UK and US covers for The Woman in Cabin 10

In case I haven’t convinced you yet, you can read an extract from the book thanks to DeadGood Books here.

The Woman in Cabin 10 is out on the 30th of June 2016 in the UK.

 

The Ages of Lulu (1989) by Almudena Grandes

Even though I am Spanish, I am not the biggest fan of Spanish literature. In fact, it is very seldom that I pick up a book either written by a Spanish author or translated into Spanish. However, last March I enrolled on a course about ‘Women in Literature’ that ended up being ‘Women in Spanish Literature’. Some of the authors rang a bell while others I knew: it is one of those times when you know the names and the titles of their works, but you have never read any of the novels. It was with this frame of mind that I realised I had to read The Ages of Lulu (Las edades de Lulú in the original Spanish), a novel written in 1989 by Almudena Grandes.

The Ages of Lulu by Almudena Grandes

What Goodreads says:

At just fifteen years old, Lulu, a “round, hungry little girl,” finds that her erotic cravings are already powerfully established when she is seduced by a family friend, Pablo, twelve years her senior. This initial encounter incites the violent power play that drives an adult Lulu through a series of increasingly titillating sexual exploits. Always fascinated by the thin line separating decency and morality from perversion, Lulu gains the courage to explore the darker side of her carnal desires—but as her forays become increasingly desperate, the world of illicit and dangerous sex threatens to engulf her completely.


A groundbreaking novel of sexual exploration, The Ages of Lulu sparked international controversy and was an overnight sensation when it was first published in Spain fifteen years ago. It won the Sonrisa Vertical Prize for erotic fiction, and was made into a film starring Javier Bardem.

The author:

Spanish author Almudena Grandes

Almudena Grandes was born in Madrid in 1960. She is known for her columns for the centre-left wing newspaper El País, where she explores current politics, friendship, family and whatever issue she thinks fit. She is also a member of Izquierda Unida (‘United Left’), Spain’s traditional left wing party. She writes novels, but has also published a few short story collections and plays.

Historical context:

The Ages of Lulu is an erotic novel and its importance for Spanish literature comes directly from the time of its publication. Spain was subjected to a fascist dictatorship from 1939 to 1975 under the rule of Coronel Francisco Franco and his party, the ‘Falange’. His dictatorship was informed by Catholicism and a national movement based on the Castilian culture, and he tried to erase local traditions and languages. Opposing the dictatorship meant risking your life, and as a consequence many people just tried to survive as they could. Just to establish a parallel, think of early 20th century Ireland, and you will get a glimpse of what it was to live in Spain during the dictatorship.

This very brief historical context is important for the analysis of The Ages of Lulu due to the imposition of Catholic imaginary upon women during the dictatorship. Pilar Primo de Rivera – sister to the Falange founder – was in charge of the ‘Sección Femenina’ (‘Female Section’), an organisation that prescribed adequate behaviour and lifestyle for women. Due to the importance of Catholicism, the most influential image for women during the dictatorship was Virgin Mary, embodying the contradictions of being a virgin and a mother at the same time. For Spanish women born in the 20th century this meant a total lack of sexual education – except for a few who came from left-wing, powerful families and managed to buy the pill and condoms under the counter, risking imprisonment – and the imposition of virginal and supposedly pure values. This lead to a normalisation of a troubled relationship with female sexuality in which female desire was seen as dirty, and the label ‘whore’ was easily impossed on anyone who did not supress their libido. There was a high rate of teenage pregnancy, single motherhood was forbidden and despised and the image of the Angel in the House was expected of married women and mothers.

Once Franco was dead and Spain slowly caught up with the rest of the West, a new cultural movement emerged in Madrid called ‘La Movida’ in the 1980’s. To put it briefly, it was time to party after so many years of oppression, and ‘La Movida’ promised happiness and liberation along with parties, drugs, sex, and a lot of music. It was also a celebration of fluid sexualities and homosexuality – punished by the regime with the death penalty – and it aimed to break away with traditional gender stereotypes and role models with the celebration of travestism.

La Movida (Spain, 1980's)

The Ages of Lulu (1989):

When Grandes wrote and published The Ages of Lulu in 1989 Spain had been enjoying a democracy for 14 years, but moral values and certain codes of behaviour inherited from the regime were still very much present in everyday life. Sadly, they still are in 2016. So, the publishing of an erotic novel, narrated on the first person by a sexually active and desiring teenage girl became a national sensation and success. The novel is a bildungsroman told from a sexual perspective and follows Lulu from her first sexual encounter to a final one. In between you can find stories about being a daughter, a mother and a friend.

Las edades de Lulú

It is now time to come clear about the novel: it is very dated and dependant on the context it was written on. I found it provocative just for the sake of being so, and some scenes surprised me in a bad way. Lulu’s relationship with Pablo, the boy she has her first sexual encounter with, is still quite patriarchal and victim to an imaginary in which grown women’s sexual desire is not quite developed yet. That is, Lulu is aware of her sexual desire and she satisfies it with men and women alike, but the novel portrays this sexual desire as a rebellion against her Catholic and conservative education. As Foucault would say a rebellion does not make you free since it compels you to do the exact opposite of what you have been told to do. It just a masquerade, a reversal of the dominant discourse. But, at the time the novel was published this rebellion was the only way in which women could openly explore their sexuality and feel free.

As a consequence the novel feels like reading a teenager’s diary, a rebel without a cause (the ending is very conservative), a need for attention and a need for freedom. And I still liked it, especially the first half. Grandes makes a huge effort to inscribe sex and sexuality into everyday life, something is still absent from contemporary fiction, and produces a counter-discourse that assures the female reader it is OK to have sexual needs in whatever form they present themselves. The novel could very well be related to the 1980’s and 1990’s texts feminist and philosophical texts that exposed normative sexuality as an opening of located orifices as rites of passage.

The verdict:

Although dated, The Ages of Lulu is a landmark in Spanish fiction and it should be considered a masterpiece of the post-dictatorship feminist movement. Despite its conservative background ideas and some gross – yet very interesting – scenes, the novel depicts the carpe diem state of mind of the 1980’s, when Western culture finally entered Spain and generations who had been oppressed for decades were granted the right to do as they wanted. In this case it meant lots of sex, drugs and music. And in this case it was what the country needed.

While I was reading the novel I felt that maybe this is what readers who are disappointed with Fifty Shades of Grey should read. Both novels present a young woman’s sexual life and their relationship with an older man who tries to subject them. The Ages of Lulu is not shy in portraying non-normative sexual behaviours and practices, and in doing so is trying to inscribe them as an option, rather than a quirk. However, I will say again that the novel takes great pleasure in presenting these practices – like a rebellious teenager who knows she is doing something forbidden – and successfully translates that pleasure to the reader.

I would highly recommend The Ages of Lulu to anyone, especially women readers, in order to explore how oppression and extreme fake moral values can end up producing the opposite of what they wanted. However, if I took something from reading the novel – and this is the main reason why I am publishing this review – is to be happy and enjoy life. Grandes has reminded me that I am lucky to have the freedom to explore the many, many options and paths that life has to offer which are not planned or scheduled: they can only be lived through.