Available now from John Murray
Lillian, a single, well-travelled woman of a certain age, wakes up next to her married lover and looks back at her life. It’s not at all the life she expected.
Walking the unpaved road between traditional and modern options for women, Lillian has grappled with parental disappointment, society’s expectations and the vagaries of love and sex. As a narrator she’s bold and witty, and her reflections – from ‘On Getting to Sex’ to ‘On the Importance of Big Pockets’ or ‘On Leaving in Order to Stay’ – reverberate originally and unpredictably.
In Lillian on Life, Alison Jean Lester has created a brutally honest portrait of a woman living through the post-war decades of change in Munich, Paris, London and New York. Her story resonates with the glamour and energy of those cities. Charming, sometimes heartbreaking, never a stereotype, Lillian is completely herself; her view of the world is unique. You won’t soon forget her.
I decided to read this book as I fancied a change from all the nail-biting, heart-thumping stuff I usually go for. And I must confess that I only entered in half-heartedly – hoping, of course, that I would enjoy the change of pace, yet not fully believing that it would be my cup of tea.
Well thank goodness for variety! I soon found that I was enthralled with the wonderful Lillian and her views on life. Written as the memoirs of a woman on the wrong side of middle-age; Lillian talks about all manner of subjects from her relationship with her parents, to college, to working abroad – and with highlights of her many sexual conquests peppered throughout – this was a touching account of an unremarkable yet extraordinary life.
Lester has created a real gem of a character here. Lillian is wise, warm, frank, funny; and is often incapable of hitting that switch that controls what is appropriate to say out loud – and I so love that! But it’s not all sassy snaps and mockery; Lillian has felt heartache, and fear, and regret; and this is relayed honestly, starkly, and elegantly. I could very easily imagine that I was sitting having coffee with Lillian (she would have preferred wine…mind you so would I!) whilst she regaled all of these fantastic anecdotes; the emotion was certainly conveyed as if she was right here with me, and it stuck around long after I turned the final page.
Lillian on Life is most definitely going on my ‘Chicken Soup’ shelf. I have come away from it feeling so desperately sad for Lillian and indignant about the unfairness of life, and also completely inspired and determined to ensure that when it comes to looking back on my own life, I will do so in the knowledge that every possible potential was fulfilled. For as Lillian says: “Actions are whispers compared to dreams”.
A poignant, charming, and emotional read that will make you instantly re-evaluate life.
Many thanks to the publisher for providing this book for review.
Happy reading x