#BookReview Joan Smokes by Angela Meyer @SarabandBooks

Joan SmokesAbout the Book

Winner of the inaugural Mslexia Novella Award (2019).

She used to be someone else, but now she’s arrived in Vegas, where she can start again. It won’t do to let the past leak in. It’s the Sixties now. She’s going to become … Joan. She makes a list: Buy a new dress (fitted, floral). Dye her hair (dark). Curl it. Buy red lipstick. Buy cigarettes and a lighter, too: Joan, she decides, is a smoker. There’s no need to dwell on why she’s here, what went before. She is just moving forward, one foot in front of the other, becoming that new person. Joan. This city of flashing neon, casinos and shows is full of distractions. Finding a job will be quick and easy. Things to do. New people to meet. A clean sheet. She’s certainly not thinking about Jack, or … No. Not anymore. Her new life starts right here, right now.

Format: Paperback (76 pages)                 Publisher: Saraband
Publication date: 5th December 2019   Genre: Literary Fiction

Purchase links*
Amazon.co.uk | Hive (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Joan Smokes on Goodreads


My Review

Who is Joan? Or rather, who is the woman who currently calls herself Joan, seemingly just the latest in a series of assumed names and characters? Like an actress playing a role, our narrator considers what someone called Joan would do. How would she dress, what colour would her hair be, what car would she drive? She knows for sure she would smoke. Yes, Joan smokes. As she muses at one point, her life is ‘a fabrication, a performance’.

It seems though that however far she travels there are things she can’t leave behind. Joan muses, ‘How does the mind learn to let things go?‘ prompting the reader to wonder what is it she’s trying to let go of: traumatic memories, past actions, emotional ties? As details of Joan’s relationship with the troubled Jack are gradually revealed, we understand more why she asks ‘Was there passion without pain?’

The book is characterized by spare, sharp prose and acutely observed descriptions of people, objects and places. For example, I loved Joan’s first impression of the Las Vegas strip: ‘The lights make sound in her eyes. On one sign: the soprano crescendo of pink. On another, a swooshing fan of green-blue.’

Despite being less than eighty pages, Joan Smokes packs a powerful emotional punch with its haunting story of rejection, loss and trying to start over.

I received an advance review copy courtesy of Saraband and Ruth Killick Publicity.

In three words: Taut, intense, acutely-observed

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Screen-Shot-2019-05-13-at-13.34.13-wpcf_345x237About the Author

Angela Meyer is an exciting new talent: a debut novelist whose short stories has been published in Best Australian Stories, Island, The Big Issue, The Australian, The Lifted Brow and Killings. By day she works as a publisher for Echo, an imprint of Bonnier Publishing Australia, where she has identified and published international bestsellers including The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

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2 thoughts on “#BookReview Joan Smokes by Angela Meyer @SarabandBooks

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