Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester

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Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The story of a woman's life delivered in 'snapshots' of relationships with family, friends and lovers. Totally original and a brilliant read. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: January 2015
Publisher: John Murray
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1848549548

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Lillian is in her late fifties, single and childless but you shouldn't - for a moment - allow yourself to think that she has a rather sad life. She's lived through periods of tremendous change in post-war Munich, Paris, London and she's now come to rest, smart and independent, in New York. Born in a time when the expectations of her parents - and of society - were fairly standard as to what a woman should do with her life, she seems always to have had a sense that she would disappoint both if she was to be true to herself. She's hot blooded and sexually uninhibited and certainly ahead of her time in her views. When we first meet her she's waking up next to her married lover and taking stock of her life. Amongst other things.

You'll love Lillian. She's uninhibited but not embarrassingly so. Kate Atkinson describes the book - and by extension, Lillian - as subversive and it's an excellent description. Lillian is clear sighted: I loved the way that she bought an elegant nightdress and negligee for the niece who was going to spent the night at her boyfriend's flat, refusing to pander to the father's hysteria. Even better was her description of the gift as for when you go visiting: gentle, subtle support. There's a lot of wisdom in the book, all of it delivered from a woman of generous heart and nature.

The 'wisdom' is delivered in a series of short essays on a particular subject, which build into the story of Lillian's life. She's brutally honest about herself, but perhaps far too generous about others and there were occasions when I wanted her to fight back, rather than simply walk away. The shortness of each chapter has the unfortunate consequence of 'reading just one more before I put the book down' - unfortunate in that I finished the book far too quickly (in just one sitting), when I would love to have had the pleasure of having it to read for many more hours.

It's a debut novel. It's been described as 'quirky' but I'd prefer 'original'. It's a couple of days since I finished reading Lillian on Life, but I keep thinking back to her, wondering what she would have to say about something. She's the friend whom you can always rely on to shed new light on any subject. I can't wait for what Alison Jean Lester writes next and I'd like to thank the publisher for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we think that you might also enjoy Unexpected Lessons in Love by Bernardine Bishop - I know that I did!

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Buy Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester at


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