Friday 29 April 2022

That Green Eyed Girl by Julie Owen Moylan @JulieOwenMoylan #TheGreenEyedGirl @MichaelJBooks @Livvii #BookReview


1955: In an apartment on the Lower East Side, school teachers Dovie and Gillian live as lodgers. Dancing behind closed curtains, mixing cocktails for two, they guard their private lives fiercely. Until someone guesses the truth . . .

 Twenty years later in the same apartment, Ava Winters is keeping her own secret. Her mother has become erratic, haunted by something Ava doesn't understand - until one sweltering July morning, she disappears.

Soon after her mother's departure, Ava receives a parcel. Addressed simply to 'Apartment 3B', it contains a photo of a woman with the word 'LIAR' scrawled across it. Ava does not know what it means or who sent it. But if she can find out then perhaps she'll discover the answers she is seeking - and meet the woman at the heart of it all . . .

That Green Eyed Girl by Julie Owen Moylan is published on 12 May 2022 by Michael Joseph. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This is the author's debut published novel and what a wonderful story it is. From the original and compelling first line, right through to the very end, this story totally captured me.  I love a dual time slip story, and the short chapters, alternating between New York in the 1950s and the 1970s are done so very well. All too often, with dual time line stories, the reader can become more invested in one era. Not with this book. I was enthralled by both stories, by all of the characters and not least by the evocative and totally convincing portrayal of New York city. 

The author cleverly sets both parts of the story in the same apartment. This is the New York that we see on the large screen, before the clean up. We are taken deep into the heart of the residential areas, as the inhabitants suffer the extreme heat during the summer months, followed by the bitter cold of winter. 

In 1955, the apartment is home to Dovie and Gillian. Two teachers who share their space so well. For them, the apartment is their sanctuary, the place that they can be who they really are. Away from prying eyes and judgemental tongues.  As they listen to their jazz records, dance around the living room and share a nightcap tumbler of whiskey, there is no doubt that these are two women who care so much for each other. However, it's the 1950s America and there are people who would stop at nothing to make sure that their happiness doesn't last. With the risk of losing their jobs, and coping with family disapproval, they've done all they can to hide what they are.   Then Judith turns up. What a totally obnoxious, bitter and vile character she is. Perfectly crafted, Judith will make readers howl with frustration and anger as she schemes and plots to get what she wants. She will allow nobody to get in her way.

In 1975, fifteen-year-old Ava lives in the apartment with her mother. Her father has left, he's now shacked up with Candy, a flashy, younger woman who waits tables at a nearby diner. Ava's mother is a delicate, troubled woman, and Ava feels a huge sense of responsibility towards her. Her mother's behaviour gets more erratic, until one day she disappears and when found is taken away for treatment. 

Whilst Ava and Dovie (who narrated the majority of the 1950s story) are on the face of it, two very different women, from different eras, with different backgrounds, their similarities are many. They both want to be loved, yet feel at times that they are unlovable. They both suffer loneliness and heartbreak and are both affected by the actions of those around them, with far reaching effects, that will come to change their lives. 

The author cleverly weaves both stories together when a box of old photographs and letters are delivered to the apartment in 1975. Ava makes it her mission to find out where Dovie and Gillian are, she would like nothing more than to give their possessions to them.

This is such an elegantly written novel that swept me away. The author deals with issues of prejudice so very well and her evocative descriptions of New York are unforgettable. It's a book that looks at women's lives over the years; the pressures, the struggles and the changes. 

Emotional and stylish, this is a truly wonderful story and I highly recommend it to all. 

Julie Owen Moylan was born in Cardiff and has worked in a variety of jobs, from trainee hairdresser and chip shop attendant at sixteen to business management consultant and college lecturer in her thirties.

She then returned to education to complete her Master's degree in Film before going on to complete a further Master's degree in Creative Writing.
Julie is an alumna of the Faber Academy's Writing a Novel course. She lives in Cardiff with her husband and two cats.

Julie can be found on Twitter: @JulieOwenMoylan

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