31) The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
I will be honest with you reader, normally I wouldn’t go near a book with this title, particularly when it is coupled with a chick-lit-ish cover: in short, it looks from the outside like it is specifically designed to not make me read it. Well, books and covers and judging and all that – I listened to another episode of A Good Read (Radio 4 show/podcast where the host, Harriet Gilbert, asks two people to recommend a good read, and she picks one too – they all then each read the three books and spend 10 minutes reviewing each), and one of those invited on (Hadley Freeman – the episode is here) suggested this book. More than that, she explicitly called out that the cover and title were misleading, and to give it a chance because it was great. So, in the manner of such things, I added it to the Amazon Wish List, it went to sale price, and here we are.
So you should take two things from this review at least. The first is, if you love books, definitely subscribe to Books and Authors / A Good Read as a podcast. It’s a simple format and it works brilliantly. The second is, well, don’t judge a book by its cover (and/or its title). Proverb and aphorism newsflash alert.
The book is a series of short stories-cum-chapters that interlink and primarily tell the story of a young woman’s relationships as she grows up, particularly focusing on her relationship with an older book editor (she works in publishing too). It is fabulously sharp and witty, and the dialogue bears comparison with Aaron Sorkin or John Updike or Nora Ephron. But it is also incisive and insightful: I loved the opening story about her older brother’s girlfriend and how they (sort of) build an understanding; the story about her holiday with her boyfriend, his ex and her husband is excruciating, sad, and true; and the later chapters that focus more on her two father figures are moving without losing any of the sharpness.
It is also incredibly readable – I whipped through this faster than any of the ‘standard crime genre’ novels I packed in the suitcase, and I enjoyed it immensely. It might be 20 years old, but it didn’t feel dated, perhaps because the relationship ins and outs are universal and timeless, regardless of the setting or the age. Or it could be because of Bank’s writing, which is what the adjective ‘whip-smart’ was invented for. Hunt it out and get reeled in.
BUY IT NOW: The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing