Writers & Lovers
by Lily King
Publisher: Black Cat (2020)
I have always had an intimate relationship with reading. Recently I discovered the joy of narratives of and by women, who have rich inner lives that don’t seem interesting unless you learn to care deeply about them. Reading Writers & Lovers by Lily King was like watching my thoughts form on the pages in front of me, except in a much better way than I could ever put them. The writing is beautiful and easy and filled with vivid imagery and metaphors. I wouldn’t describe it as anything other than lovely.
How refreshing it was to find that, really, the whole plot of the book is summarised in its title. It is about a woman, Casey, who has been working on a novel for six years; she is riddled with debt and the weight of her mother’s death, but has no free time to process these things because of her waitressing job. She has to deal with losing friends as she grows up, choosing between the safe and the exciting when it comes to relationships, trying to keep herself afloat in a society that seems to hate the struggling writer, and most importantly, how to still love the world despite all of this.
This book could easily be mistaken for Casey’s personal diary, instead of the carefully constructed life of a fictional character. Lily King perhaps expresses many of her own doubts and fears about writing through Casey. Will her book be taken seriously? Though she is a lover of literature, is she worthy enough to take the leap to the other side and be considered a real writer? Will she ever actually finish writing her book?
Though Writers & Lovers is filled with anxiety and uncertainty, Casey is grounded in her beliefs and her love for what she does. Even though her waitressing job is exhausting and takes up most of her time, she always makes sure to keep her mornings free for writing. She involves herself in literary circles, where she meets the men who constitute the “Lovers” aspect of the book. She is one of the only ones in her friend circle who stuck to writing even after college, fighting to say that literature is as much a part of the “real world” as any other profession.
During this pandemic, I rediscovered the joy of reading and being intimate with characters. I think reading is a passion unlike any other in the world because of its ability to change the way one sees things, however temporarily. As a struggling aspiring writer myself, Casey’s anxieties hit quite close to home. She questions herself every step of the way and tries not to get ahead of herself in terms of her expectations. She doesn’t trust the writing sensibilities of others’ as much as her own, which makes her feel lost at times. Plus, she doesn’t like listening to the opinions of men.
The parts I love most about Writers & Lovers are when Casey describes the lunch and dinner rushes at the restaurant where she works. The guests are seated, the menus are handed out, Casey piles four hot plates on each arm and has to rush them to tables scattered on two floors, cheques have to be correctly handed out; all these have to be done with a smile on her face. These scenes are described in great detail. The reader feels the urgency and stress and fatigue through the long sentences that Lily King uses. During those hours every night, Casey’s brain stops working but her body is on overdrive; every non-waitressing thought takes a backseat. I love these moments because being in such a stressful environment somehow relaxes Casey and distracts her from the rest of her chaotic life, which I find hilarious.
Casey is such a real character that she feels as though I have really met her somewhere. She could be any of my friends. She could be me. In my opinion, Lily King has achieved through Writers & Lovers what Casey wants to achieve through her book: love, hope, happiness, and a warm feeling in your fingertips as you keep turning the pages.