‘Writers and Lovers’ by Lily King – Torn Between Two Lovers


‘Writers and Lovers’ by Lily King  (2020) – 324 pages

I was quite interested in what Lily King would do next after her novel ‘Euphoria’ which was spectacularly well done. Now King’s follow-up novel, ‘Writers and Lovers’, has arrived.

Whereas ‘Euphoria’ takes place in the wilds of the island of New Guinea in the early 1930s, ‘Writers and Lovers’ has a much more conventional setting in Boston in 1997. The two novels are much different from each other, and about the only characteristic that they share is a love triangle.

I almost hesitate to tell you the plot of ‘Writers and Lovers’ for fear of putting you off the book entirely. It is about a young woman in her late twenties who is having difficulty completing her novel which she has been working on for six years. She works in an upscale fashionable restaurant as a waitress and lives in a former potting shed in order to support herself and her writing.

She has just broken up with her last boyfriend.

I’m usually better at protecting myself from this kind of thing.”

From heartbreak?”

Yeah.” My throat is closing. “I can usually get out of the way before it hits me straight on.”

That’s not really heartbreak then, is it?”

Early on, she meets two new men. One is a somewhat famous writer in his forties whose wife has recently died leaving him with two preschool children. The other man is closer in age to her and is also a writer but so far not remotely successful.

As you can see, this novel is all about the struggles and triumphs of characters writing their fiction and poetry, a theme which is usually a death warrant for a novel. Here is yet another novel by a female writer about a female writer and the problems she encounters. We have an author searching for an adequate subject but not finding it so she writes about her former life. Yes, writing fiction is a struggle, but who wants to read about it?

In ‘Writers and Lovers’ favor, it does have the formidable writing talents of Lily King. She captures exactly what it must be like working in a fashionable expensive restaurant, the painstaking efforts to present the exotic menu items to the customers perfectly and the camaraderie of the restaurant workers. In the dating scenes, King captures the small nuances and the intensity or lack of intensity in her feelings about these two men. King is especially adept in relating female desire.

My whole body responds to his hand in mine.”

The desire to press up against him is on a short loop in my head.”

However after the wild and adventurous ‘Euphoria’, ‘Writers and Lovers’ was a bit of a letdown. Like its title, this novel is rather amorphous and prosaic. I did like quite a number of the scenes and attitudes of ‘Writers and Lovers’, but for me it did not quite reach the perfection of ‘Euphoria’.


Grade:    B



3 responses to this post.

  1. Well yes, that’s what I think: “writing fiction is a struggle, but who wants to read about it?” It seems like the ultimate in narcissism to me. A writer who can only write about herself is of no interest to me at all, not even Lily King, whose Euphoria I read on your recommendation, and really liked.

    Liked by 1 person


    • Hi Lisa,
      I am not as opposed to these “fictions about people writing fiction” as you are, but the result must have great originality and creativity otherwise for me to really like them. ‘Writers and Lovers’ did have some good moments, just not as many as ‘Euphoria’.



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