Review: LILLIAN ON LIFE by Alison Jean Lester

Title: Lillian on Life
Author: Alison Jean Lester
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication Date: May 10, 2016
ISBN: 9780425276204
Number of Pages: 240
How I Got It: direct from publisher
Format: paperback
Goodreads Description:
This is the story of Lillian, a single woman reflecting on her choices and imagining her future. Born in the Midwest in the 1930s; Lillian lives, loves, and works in Europe in the fifties and early sixties; she settles in New York and pursues the great love of her life in the sixties and seventies. Now it’s the early nineties, and she’s taking stock. Throughout her life, walking the unpaved road between traditional and modern choices for women, Lillian grapples with parental disappointment and societal expectations, wins and loses in love, and develops her own brand of wisdom. Lillian on Life lifts the skin off the beautiful, stylish product of an era to reveal the confused, hot-blooded woman underneath.
My Review:
Lillian is a very modern for her time and ours as well. After Vassar, she heads to Germany to type for an author, is then a secretary for the Paris bureau, before hopping to London and then New York. She has a series of lovers but has never married or had children. The book tenderly begins with Lillian, age 57, waking up next to her long-time, married lover, but it is on page 19, when Lillian reflects on her first year at college, that I fall in love with her:
"The phone was quiet for the first few weeks of my first year, so I spent most evenings in the library rather than listening for the phone at the entrance to the residence hall. I was there to study after all. I'd signed up for more than the required number of credits, in order to do a double major--early childhood education and English literature. Lots of girls were doing a major and a minor, or even a major and two minors. But what kind of word is that, minor?  A minor in religion, or philosophy? It's like taking only a thin slice of fruitcake. What if the cherry is on the other side of the cake and you never taste it? I was too hungry for that."
Lillian is smart and practical. She isn't thumbing her nose at society's conventions with her actions, rather she simply does what she wishes. Her calm, composed intelligence shine through in each of her chapters of advice on life. The short chapters of this slim debut novel made this a quick read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will definitely pick up author Alison Jean Lester's next release.

***Disclaimer:: I was given a copy of this release in exchange for an honest review. I received no additional compensation. ***


Carmen said...

A slice of life it seems.

Judy Krueger said...

This sounds like my kind of book. Reminds me of some of my sheroes: Simone de Beauvoir, Rebecca West, Mary McCarthy. I will be checking this one out.