literary journalism

Lily King’s ‘Five Tuesdays in Winter’

The American author Lily King’s five acclaimed novels include the 2014 Kirkus Prize-winning Euphoria, loosely based on the anthropologist Margaret Mead’s adventures in Papua New Guinea, and Writers & Lovers, a Künstlerroman that appeared on a host of 2020 books-of-the-year lists.

Fans of King’s novels will find much to enjoy in the 10 short stories in her first collection, half of which are previously unpublished. In the opening story,“Creature”, Carol recalls babysitting for a wealthy family in New England when she was 14, “halfway through Jane Eyre for summer reading”. She finds herself fantasising about her charges’ married uncle, Hugh. “You cannot know these blistering feelings — you have not yet met your Rochester,” she writes to a friend.Outsized adolescent emotion is fertile terrain for King: her 1999 debut, The Pleasing Hour, featured an au pair falling for her host father. At first flattering,Hugh’s attention quickly turns predatory — worlds away from the “tender, delicate kiss” Carol had imagined.

Carol took the babysitting job to escape from the one-bedroom apartment she has shared with her mother since her parents’ separation due to her father’s recurrent stints in rehab. Absence is a pervasive theme in King’s work: more often than not, her protagonists grapple with a lost or troubled parent…

Read the full review online in the Financial Times

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