Notable Novels: Lily King conquers the art of detail in “Writers & Lovers”


In a Q&A with Grove Atlantic Publishing Company, Author Lily King shares her passion and inspiration for her novel. PHOTO COURTESY/ YOUTUBE GroveAtlantic

Money and love are two things that can bring on a swirl of emotions –– joy, happiness, agony, frustration and confusion. Both have a tight grip on narrator Casey Peabody, who is struggling to find balance. A throwback story set in 1997, “Writers & Lovers” by Lily King follows Casey as she grapples with adjusting to life in the early stages of her career and the ideals of holding onto dreams that may or may not come true. 

Casey’s dream is to publish the novel she’s been writing for the past six years, but she puts it aside when her mother suddenly passes away.  During the summer of 1997, she moves to Massachusetts in an effort to recover from her mother’s death and the end of her latest romance. She doesn’t have a plan and is scrambling to make ends meet, living in a tiny apartment and waitressing in Harvard Square. At age 31, she’s holding onto threads of the life she dreamed of: She had yearned for the life of a successful writer and had surrounded herself with like-minded people. But most of her friends, who at one point were all in a writing M.F.A. program, have moved on from the idea of writing and are busy leading other careers, getting married and raising children. While trying to avoid debt collectors and navigating her dating life with two different writers, Casey discovers a serious health concern that leaves her unsettled. 

This book takes place during a time when there was no social media and the majority of people did not own a cell phone, so Casey is very much present in every moment. Perhaps it’s the lack of the distractions that we have today, or perhaps it’s the mind of a writer, but no detail is overlooked in Casey’s eyes. The reader knows how the napkins are folded at the restaurant, about the sweaty runner across the street and the headlines in the newspaper, including the one in early September when Princess Diana died. Through it all, Casey is quietly reflecting on her life choices and coming to terms with the end of one phase of her life and the beginning of another.

“Writers & Lovers” is a slow-paced novel that lyrically portrays a young woman forging a path for her future, seeking career satisfaction, love and happiness. An almost excessive amount of detail is used to describe each moment of the story, and the action picks up about halfway through. This semi-autobiographical book is King’s fifth novel, drawing on the grief of her own mother’s death and the memories of feeling stuck in the same place in her early 30s. In an interview last month, King revealed that she felt like she was writing for her younger self. “Writers & Lovers” is a New York Times Book Club Pick and a “Today” Show’s Read with Jenna book club selection and is available in hardcover, e-book and audiobook.