The Book of Goose

Yiyun Li

The Book of Goose
HarperCollins Publishers
United Kingdom
8 June 2023

The Book of Goose

Yiyun Li

A propulsive, seductive new novel about friendship, exploitation and intimacy from the prize-winning author of Where Reasons End.

Fabienne is dead. Her childhood best friend, Agnès, receives the news in America, far from the French countryside where the two girls were raised – the place that Fabienne helped Agnès escape ten years ago. Now, Agnès is free to tell her story.

As children in a backwater town, they’d built a private world, invisible to everyone but themselves – until Fabienne hatched the plan that would change everything, launching Agnès on an epic trajectory through fame, fortune, and terrible loss.


Meet Fabienne and Agnès, the heroines of The Book of Goose and a pair of adolescent, antisocial girls in 1950s rural France. The two best friends start a game of writing a booktogether, where Fabienne comes up with the story but only Agnès’ name is credited on the book. Their work becomes a bestseller and Agnès catapults to fame as a child prodigy, travelling to Paris and London, while Fabienne remains in their countryside town.

If your first impression is anything like mine, you’re probably thinking, ‘that sounds innocent enough’. Well, you would be very wrong. I was truly unprepared for what a perverse marvel this book turned out to be. Like many character-driven novels, a quick run-down of the plot can only go so far as to prepare you for the trove of meaning contained in Yiyun Li’s latest story. The Book of Goose is a tremendous psychological excavation of obsessive female friendship, the act of creation and what it means to be at odds with the world. Destructive co-dependency coupled with the ending of their childhoods lead Li’s two main characters on an inevitable trajectory of fate and tragedy, and I could not look away. There is such a rich, propulsive poignancy to the prose that makes this novel feel like something only Li could write. It retains the dry wit that I so enjoyed in her 2019 novel, Where Reasons End, but offers a more satisfying, well-rounded story where a second read will be just as rewarding as the first.

Fans of Elena Ferrante and Ottessa Moshfegh will enjoy what may just be Yiyun Li’s best work yet.

Tracy Hwang is from Readings Emporium.

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