Girls They Write Songs About
Girls They Write Songs About successfully captures what life felt like back in the late nineties in big cities across the world. It also captures what young friendship and fumbling early career and relationship choices feel like with painful accuracy. But it starts to meander around its halfway point, leaving the reader stranded.
Rose and Charlotte meet while working at a music magazine in 1997. New York and the world at large is in the middle of changing – the city is being cleaned up literally and figuratively. Rose is bold, with big plans for her future and big belief that she and Charlotte can write amazingly well-done novels that will top their literary heroines (Plath, Didion, Murdoch and Nin, among others, get namedropped). Charlotte has much more conservative ambitions and is very bookish.
They careen through their twenties with abandon, experiencing New York and the men there, winning and losing, experiencing life. But when Rose starts to settle down – and Charlotte finds herself adrift – can their friendship be saved?
Girls they Write Songs About refuses to give its readers neat, easy moral messages about the women at the center of the book. Rose ends up with much more than she bargained for; Charlotte jumps into relationships with unavailable men – literally and/or emotionally, and ends up in a different career than she anticipated. But the two women have each other – until they don’t.
The book’s weakest part comes when they lose each other because Charlotte picks a married lover over continuing their friendship and the rest of the book mainly deals with her angst over this. Part of me wanted more Rose – some chapters from her point of view. Her personality is so strong that I really wanted to peek directly into her head without Charlotte. And I wanted to find out what happens to her after the two narratives split into divided roads.
The book captures the spirit of the writing soul, the way one yearns to do more, to do better, but how life sometimes gets in the way. And New York is a character all in of itself; mid-Disneyfication but pre-9/11, Bauer captures a city in everlasting flux.
In the end, Girls they Write Songs About is a lovely, credibly portrait of a friendship, but I wanted a little more from it.
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Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier