As I count down the days before Her Own Vietnam is published, I wanted to share some thoughts about my favorite novelists. If you’re not already familiar with these wonderful writers, I hope you’ll give their books a try.
Over the next few weeks I’ll post (in alphabetical order) about Thirty Novelists You Should Know. And guess what – they’re all women.
#1 Carol Anshaw
I discovered Carol Anshaw in 1992 with her first book, Aquamarine. In that novel she creates three alternate and equally plausible lives for Jessie, an Olympic swimmer who almost wins a gold medal but loses it to the Australian swimmer she has fallen in love with. Or was it love? Did the Australian woman woo her only to break her concentration? And which of the three possible futures does Jessie experience?
My admiration for Anshaw’s writing has grown through all four of her novels including her most recent book, Carry the One, in which young people on the way home from a wedding get into a car accident that will affect the rest of their lives.
What I admire
Here’s what I love about her work. Anshaw creates warm, lively, complicated characters who live in the real world, not in a fictional bubble. They recognize the impact of public events on their personal lives, as well as their capacity to help shape those events.
Her books are witty, with the smart, sharp-edged humor I most enjoy. Many of Anshaw’s characters are lesbians, but the books are never about the fact that they’re lesbians. She is a master at writing dialogue that’s realistic and revealing. Throw in some great Chicago locations (my home town) and you have the perfect mix.
Where’s the love?
I know she’s a New York Times best-selling author, but it has always seemed to me that Carol Anshaw is underappreciated as a writer. I wonder if it’s because of the naturalistic way she writes.
Her plots unfold in ways that seem inevitable, as if anyone could see that the characters had no choice but to make those particular decisions. Her characters speak like your smartest, funniest friends, and they strive and stumble just as we all do.
Anshaw makes it look easy to write that way. It isn’t.