Review of The Poet’s House by Jean Thompson @algonquinbooks

I apologize to the publishers for the tardiness of my review for this exquisite book–and, yes, it is exquisite. Read on! đź’–

Blurb: Carla is in her twenties, working for a landscaper, lacking confidence, still unsure what direction her life will take. Viridian is a lauded and lovely aging poet whose reputation has been defined by her infamous affair with a famous male poet, Mathias, many years earlier. When Carla is hired to work at Viridian’s house, she is perplexed by this community of writers: their tendency to recite lines in conversation, the stories of their many liaisons, their endless wine-soaked nights. And still she becomes enamored with Viridian and her whole circle, and especially with the power of words, the “ache and hunger that can both be awakened and soothed by a poem,” a hunger that Carla feels sharply at this stagnating moment in her young life. At the same time, she sees how even Viridian has had to compromise so much to take her place in the world of letters. And as Viridian’s standing begins to fade, a number of people angle to gain possession of Mathias’s cycle of poems written about Viridian, a cycle he famously burned as he read them. Yet long after Mathias’ s death, one copy may still rest with Viridian. If so, why won’t she release it?

 A wry meditation on art as both transformative and on the ways in which it can be leveraged as commerce, as well as a perceptive examination of the female artist, Jean Thompson’s novel is at once delightfully funny and wise, and will resonate with readers who loved Lily King’s Writers & Lovers, Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion, and Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise.

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In her early 20s, Carla is working at a landscape job when she meets the mysterious poet, Viridian. Due to a learning disorder that’s made learning difficult due to the required amount of reading, Carla’s never read much poetry, but the more she hangs around Viridian and her fellow poets, Carla finds herself intrigued and drawn into a world that she seems to have an aptitude for in Jean Thompson’s beautifully exquisite novel, The Poet’s House.

While Viridian is the most intriguing character in Carla’s world, in The Poet’s House Carla, a combination of old soul and blank slate, was the most interesting to me. She devours all that she can learn about poetry and poems. But she’s not entirely certain about the poets themselves who are an odd crew. Carla’s intuition regarding behavior is spot on and guides her through interactions with these differing characters.

I loved reading The Poet’s House and sincerely wish it were longer as I enjoyed being a part of this poetry world. I felt the frustrations of what it was like to be a female writer in a world where men ranked supreme and could behave in any way that they wanted and were never called out for it (1970s) and now in current times how not much has altered, except that poison oak can sometimes be a penalty for male excess. Women are still held at a different standard. Carla is frequently judged by her looks and perhaps behavior that belies a highly functioning mind but I think future Carla is a force to be reckoned with and would love to see who she becomes.

The Poet’s House is beautifully written, thought out, and just a pleasure to read, so much so that I’ll be checking out the author’s other work.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.



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