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Archive by tag: Miriam BalanescuReturn
May 22, 2022

This intelligent and knowing debut about a female academic’s dangerous obsession with a younger professor is less risk-taking than it thinks it is

“I ask this one thing:/let me go mad in my own way,” opens the epigraph – taken from Sophocles’s Antigone – of Julia May Jonas’s debut novel. It unfolds in the wake of seven allegations of sexual misconduct against a female academic’s husband, John (another professor at the same college), triggering, in turn, a slew of student signatures calling for his removal. The supposed “madness” of the novel lies not only in the whipped-up condemnation of John, but in the narrator’s slippery descent into her own murky infatuation.

The arrival of debut author Vladimir, a suave, second-generation Russian, “clearly a transplant from the city”, as a professor amid this wreckage spells further disaster for the unnamed narrator, whose wry and shrewd voice steers this novel. Creating a quartet of entanglements, Vladimir brings wife Cynthia (and young daughter) in tow, whose deep, unexplained trauma and “honourable depression” elevates her in our narrator’s eyes.

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Feb 15, 2022

A real-life brush with serial killers Fred and Rose West is the inspiration for a prizewinning debut novel that is both driven and stymied by its own earnestness

In recent years there has been a revived interest in the freedoms and oppressions of the 1970s (Emma Cline’s The Girls was slackly based on the Manson family cult, while Elizabeth Wetmore’s Valentine unfurled in the aftermath of male violence in 1970s Texas), and Welsh-born writer Sally J Morgan’s debut novel also wrestles with how this age of seeming progression was simultaneously a perilous time to be a woman.

Morgan’s deep dive into the decade, recently awarded the Portico prize (offered to writing “that best evokes the spirit of the north of England”), reflects on her own close call with two of the UK’s most notorious serial killers. At age 21, while hitchhiking in Yorkshire, she was offered a lift by Fred and Rosemary West. Morgan’s fondness for catching a free ride is shared by her danger-chasing protagonist Jude Totton, nicknamed Toto, for whom “the edge between life and death glitters”.

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Apr 23, 2020

A new generation of authors are finding an international stage to pick apart misogyny, plastic surgery and #MeToo harassment

In May 2016, a 23-year-old South Korean woman was murdered in a public toilet near Gangnam station in Seoul. Her attacker claimed in court that “he had been ignored by women a lot and couldn’t bear it any more”.

Months later, a slim novel called Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, was published. Written by former screenwriter Cho Nam-joo, the book details the life of an “every woman” and the sexism she experiences in a deeply male-dominated society. Though it preceeded #MeToo by a year, Cho’s novel became a rallying cry for South Korean women when the movement took off there in 2018. In one of the country’s most famous #MeToo cases, a junior prosecutor, Seo Ji-hyeon, quoted Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 while accusing her boss – during a TV interview – of sexual misconduct . Female celebrities who mention the novel have been subjected to abuse; male fans of South Korean all-female pop group Red Velvet burned photos and albums singer Irene when she said she was reading it. A bill against gender discrimination was even proposed in the book’s name.

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