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Lillian on Life by Alison Jean Lester

Lillian on Life

by Alison Jean Lester

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557214,390 (3.57)3



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Lillian has lived a long and eventful life. Born and brought up in Missouri she escapes to college and then to Europe. Along the way she encounters friends and lovers as well as re-evaluating her relationship with her parents. Lillian never marries and indeed has a number of affairs with married men, her work is not central to her life but she approaches the different stages and relationships with a degree of joie de vivre.

This is a short book and that suits it well. Lester does not overburden the reader with reams of florid descriptive prose but, as a narrator, Lillian is a refreshing and original voice. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
The sort of book in which women's lib boils down to being rather more likely to sleep with your married boss.
  annesadleir | Jul 24, 2015 |
This is a very good debut novel. Written in short story type chapters, Lillian takes you through her life as an unmarried woman in a time when it was unconventional to have a full life without being married. I'm still not sure if I like Lillian but I did enjoy the book. ( )
  Dianekeenoy | Jul 2, 2015 |
Often, when I read a novel that is constructed as individual, standalone chapters that read as short stories, I end up feeling the writer was afraid of the extended toil of writing a novel, and come away disappointed. So it was deeply gratifying to read Lillian on Life, by Alison Jean Lester, and discover an author who not only knows how to do this kind of novel justice, making it all hang together as a novel, but also knows how to write like a boss.

With pointed observations, and dry, often self-depreciating wit, Lester’s lusty heroine, Missouri-born Lillian, Vassar dropout, who “dated men from Yale” leads us deep into her life in the mid-twentieth century, a time when women were just beginning to rediscover the government of their own sexuality and lives.

Clocking in at a spare 218 pages, Lillian’s journey takes readers from the teen-aged kitchen of her parents, where she enjoyed an after-school coke with the family maid, Mary, to the final premenopausal chapters where she loses Ted, the love of her life. In between we are treated to an abundance of sex and hilarity, as she searches for satisfaction and happiness in Germany, Paris, London and New York.

In Germany she meets her first scoundrel, the Hungarian Laszlo, who haunts her, in a stalkerish way, until she finally rids herself of him in a dramatic scene later in the novel.

“His heavy hair hung in shining waves, and his eyelashes sprang away from his blue eyes as if the color surprised them.”


“Such things were not called rape back then. (Paragraph) I ate the bread and cheese in my room the next day and mended the blue dress.”

Lester’s first-person prose manages the feat of being at once stark and tight, and also rich and vibrant. Reading Lillian on Life gives the feeling of substance being delivered under pressure through a tightly focused aperture.

“They thought of themselves as realists, but they were merely brutal.”

“Alec was very tall, and broad, and had been bred to pass judgment.”

“In the restaurant he ordered for both of us, which was irritating, but if I’ve learned anything with other men, it is to keep my distance from male pride. It’s an electric fence.”

“Going home that evening, I wondered if I would look for a platonic escort of my age if I were in Pyam’s position. I decided not. I’ll always want someone whose fingers are strong enough to pull my hair. Always.”

Lillian on Life is a grownup novel, written by a writer at the peak of her powers. It certainly deserves to garner interest and win awards. I highly recommend it. ( )
  CynthiaRobertson | Mar 1, 2015 |
This was an interesting look at an unconventional woman – one who made choices that were not the standard in her time. And although Lillian claimed she always wanted marriage and children, her choices in men and career caused her to remain single. But Lillian still lived her life to the fullest.

It was written in the style of a memoir using a series of short chapters with titles that sound like an instruction manual on the life Lillian is reflecting back upon; such as: “On the Dual Purpose of Things”, “On One-Night Stands”, “On Us”, “On Looking the Part”, “On the End”.

Witty and full of life, Lillian’s story will entertain women of all ages… and might enlighten a few men too!

Audio production:
At only a little over four hours, I listened to this in one afternoon. It was pleasantly narrated by Kathe Mazur; an easy, entertaining listen. ( )
  UnderMyAppleTree | Feb 13, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399168893, Hardcover)

"I absolutely loved Lillian on Life. It was a delight ... so fresh and clever..." —Kate Atkinson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Life After Life
Smart, poignant, funny, and totally original, Lillian on Life is as fresh and surprising as fiction gets.
This is the story of Lillian, a single woman reflecting on her choices and imagining her future.  Born in the Midwest in the 1930s; Lillian lives, loves, and works in Europe in the fifties and early sixties; she settles in New York and pursues the great love of her life in the sixties and seventies. Now it’s the early nineties, and she’s taking stock. Throughout her life, walking the unpaved road between traditional and modern choices for women, Lillian grapples with parental disappointment and societal expectations, wins and loses in love, and develops her own brand of wisdom. Lillian on Life lifts the skin off the beautiful, stylish product of an era to reveal the confused, hot-blooded woman underneath.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:17 -0400)

"A middle-aged woman in the 1960s looks back on her life as a single woman and on the men in her life"--

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