Posts tagged ‘Picador’

June 9, 2022

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas

by Team Riverside

Hardback, Picador, £14.99, out now

A complexly wrought debut novel by Julia May Jonas, Vladimir is the story of an unnamed female professor whose husband is facing allegations of sexual harassment from his students when she develops an obsession with Vladimir, a promising writer in his own right, who has recently joined the department.

Vladimir forms part of a spring of recent American campus novels along with Lee Cole’s Groundskeeping and Elif Batuman’s Either/Or. The campus setting is alternately lampooned as a greenhouse for elitists and treated as a microcosm for wider society. At first, I was wary of the already well-trod subject matter, abuse of power in academic settings, campus debates over free speech, writer’s feelings of envy towards each other. But Vladimir’s morally ambiguous narrator is far from a cliché. She refuses to see herself as a victim of her husband’s actions, speaks dismissively of his accusers and act manipulatively towards Vladimir, playing on his vulnerability as a man with a troubled wife and a young child.

As an unreliable and, at times unlikeable, narrator she is incredibly well drawn. As the novel develops her ideas and behaviour become increasingly horrifying and last third of Vladimir was wild and unpredictable. Vladimir is complex and surprising debut and I highly recommend it for fans of Ottessa Moshfegh and Rachel Cusk.

August 8, 2021

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

by Team Riverside

Picador, Hardback, £16.99, out now

Michelle Zauner is perhaps best known for her music, produced under the moniker Japanese Breakfast, but this memoir proves that her talent stretches across multiple mediums. Zauner was in her 25th year and a struggling artist when her mother was diagnosed with stomach cancer. She upended her life and returned to her hometown of Eugene, Oregon to take care of her as her illness became terminal. The memoir is told as a kind of non-linear narrative, moving through Zauner’s reminiscences about her relationship with her mother which was extremely close yet often challenging, a familial relationship knotted with cultural differences (Zauner’s father is white and she was raised in America) and deep love.

Food becomes a touchstone throughout the book, Korean food particularly became a way for Zauner to connect with her mother, Chongmi, and other members of her mother’s family even after their deaths: ‘When I go to H Mart, I’m not just on the hunt for cuttlefish and three bunches of scallions for a buck: I’m searching for memories. I’m collecting the evidence that the Korean half of my identity didn’t die when they did.’

The result is a touching and sensual book. I felt Zauner’s profound love for her mother radiating off the page at every turn, but particularly in her depictions of her mother’s small acts of care. When Zauner tells her mother she wants some cowboy boots, Chongmi not only buys her some but carefully wears them in first. I thoroughly recommend Crying in H Mart for fans of creative non-fiction and contemporary food writing.

Review by Phoebe