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Fabulous novels for this spring

Feast Your Eyes by Myla Goldberg, Scribner, US $28.00, Pp 328, April 2019, ISBN 978-1501197840
Roar by Cecelia Ahern, Grand Central Publishing, US $26.00, Pp 274, April 2019, ISBN 978-1538730966

Set in the 1950s through 1970s, Feast Your Eyes is the story of an ambitious female photographer who is grappling with her passion for photography and motherhood. Like other ambitious women, Lillian Preston finds it as uncertain as walking a tightrope. Lillian Preston is described as “America’s Worst Mother, America’s Bravest Mother, America’s Worst Photographer, or America’s Greatest Photographer, depending on who was talking.” Lillian discovered her love for photography at the photography club of her high school. She was so much in love with the photography that she decided not to go to college or get married. She moved to New York because she thought her future belonged there. In New York, she devoted most of her time to her passion for photography. But when she gave birth to Samantha — the result of a love affair that could not endure — she discovered another kind of love — the mother’s love. She was living a satisfying life until an avant-garde gallery owner offered her to exhibit some of her nudes including those of 6-year-old Samantha in her underwear. As a result of this exhibition, she is arrested on obscenity charges. Her arrest brings her under the limelight which changes the course of her life. She now looks for artistic legitimacy and recognition. Feast Your Eyes is structured as the catalog notes from a photography show at the Museum of Modern Art years after Lillian’s death. Feast Your Eyes is narrated by Samantha as a collection of her memories, interviews with her mother’s friends and lovers and excerpts from her journal. Put together, it is a portrait of a female artist who is struggling to find a place not only for herself but also for other female artists. Feast Your Eyes is a mesmerizing and entertaining feminist novel.

Myla Goldberg is the bestselling author of several novels including The False FriendWickett’s Remedy, and Bee Season, which was a New York Times Notable Book. She won the Borders New Voices Prize, and a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award, the NYPL Young Lions award, and the Barnes & Noble Discover award. She has also written an essay collection, a children’s book, and short stories that have appeared in Harper’s. She teaches in the fiction programs at Sarah Lawrence and NYU. She was also the subject of a song by The Decemberists, “Song for Myla Goldberg.” She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Jason Little and their two daughters.

*****

This collection of thirty short stories shines a light on thirty different issues women face in our sexist society. Hence, the protagonist in each story is just a woman — it can be any woman. In these stories, some of the women express their tribulations physically. There is a woman who escapes a war zone but faces hate and discrimination from the wealthy tennis moms at her children’s school. Then there is a young mother of three who struggles to balance the demands of her children, husband, and work but ends up tortured with bite marks on the body. For her, life is continuous torture although she is fulfilling her responsibilities. The other goes through the experience of being mortified during a presentation. It is a world where women can buy, return and exchange husbands. So one woman resolves to leave her boring husband the way she came to know him. Cecelia Ahern’s world is the world in which women’s social importance is linked to their age. They lose importance as they grow older. In most stories, the issues women face are everyday familiar issues such as daily embarrassments and desires although Cecelia Ahern spins them into outlandish issues. This makes these personal stories very universal. But, each of these stories tells you what it means to be a woman in our society. In essence, Cecelia Ahern shows it is a world that is controlled with the security apparatus in spite of its claims to be free. This is insightful feminist fiction that is highly entertaining. It is an indictment of our social, cultural and familial worlds. As you read the stories, you start relating to some of the characters that make the stories engrossing. These thirty stories create a bigger picture but they all stand alone as well. Together, they create a ‘roar’ that cannot be ignored any longer. In short, Cecelia Ahern shows that women’s reality is shaped not only by how others perceive them but also how they perceive the power to take control of their lives. We must hear these women who roar

Cecelia Ahern is the author of the international bestsellers PS, I Love YouLove, RosieIf You Could See Me NowThere’s No Place Like Here; and The Gift. Her novels have been translated into thirty-five languages and have sold more than twenty-five million copies in over fifty countries. Two of her books have been adapted as major films and she has created several TV series in the US and Germany. She lives in Dublin with her family.

*****

Most of the biographical notes in our reviews are provided by the publishers.

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