What we’re reading: Besson, Lawlor & Carreyrou
Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films we’re watching, the television shows we’re hooked on or the music we’re loving.
Fiona Hardy is reading Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
My usual reading diet consists of kids books and crime (I know, I know) but when I need to mix things up, I really love a non-bloodthirsty non-fiction book. Which makes it ironic, probably, that the one I’ve been eyeing off when customers buy it (which they do, frequently) has been John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood, the true Silicon Valley tale of a blood-testing startup’s rise and fall.
Elizabeth Holmes was a teenager when she decided she was going to change the world with a blood-testing machine so small it could fit into people’s homes, and which required a sample so small that a fingerprick was all that was needed – perfect for the needle-phobic Elizabeth. Her passion and determination saw investors inject millions into her venture, and over more than a decade, and countless bitter employees, she built Theranos into a company that seemed set for stardom.
This is a gripping tale that I tore through with anticipation every spare moment I had, written with enough enough clarity for people like me who know nothing of the industry (though I sometimes got stuck on differentiating everybody’s All-American names, like two different guys called Kent.) It’s also a good business lesson: Theranos is what not to do if you want to succeed. But reading this is a wise choice indeed.
Ellen Cregan is reading Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl by Andrea Lawlor
Inspired by my colleague Jackie’s contribution to the ‘What We’re Reading’ column last week, I bought a copy of Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl. This may be one of my favourite fiction purchases of the whole year. Lawlor is a marvellous writer, and the story here is such a playful examination of gender and sexuality. To resort to a worn cliché of book recommending: you will laugh and cry. I really mean it! Beyond the wonderfully handled erotic prose, and excellent, Orlando-esque protagonist, this book is also filled with really good music recommendations. I have been making a Spotify playlist inspired by Paul as I read. Lovers of queer lit, get this to the top of your TBR pile stat!
Joanna Di Mattia is reading Lie With Me by Philippe Besson (translated by Molly Ringwald)
For me, the best books probe human relationships, desire and intimacy. With an endorsement from André Aciman, one of the finest contemporary grammarians of desire, it’s no surprise that Philippe Besson’s Lie With Me – now available in English in an elegant translation by actor and writer Molly Ringwald – caught my attention. This is a poignant and probing remembrance by a writer of the secret love affair he had when he was a 17-year-old.
That writer’s name, like the writer of this novel, is Philippe, and the foundational romantic and sexual relationship he recounts, unfolds in 1984, in provincial France, with another 17-year-old called Thomas Andrieu. Is this the same Thomas Andrieu to whom Lie With Me is dedicated in memory of? Late in the novel, skipping ahead to 2007 and then 2016, we learn that middle-aged Philippe is a writer who creates fiction from his own life. Is Lie With Me a work of autofiction? Metafiction? Or is it something else entirely?
Smart on the shame attached to class, as well as sexuality in its small town setting, what is most striking about Lie With Me is the physical intensity with which it renders the relationship that develops between two young men who barely have the words to describe how they feel or who they are. As an adult and a writer Philippe gives tangible form and shape to those experiences, and he does this with all the bittersweet melancholy a tale of first love and loss demands.
At just under 150 pages, Lie With Me is sparse, passionate, and beautiful, delivering its most emotionally brutal blow in its very last paragraph. It stunned and moved me.