Review: Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

4:25 PM

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki | Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3.5)

The first thing you should know before diving into Woman No. 17 is that Edan Lepucki's prose is velvety smooth; dark, delicious, humorous. What makes the entire novel is the way the story is told. The narration as it unfolds is something spectacular, even if the story is not. Something in the way she writes is a breath of fresh air and rings true to day-to-day life, making the connections and plots (or lack thereof) all the more stunning. Edan Lepucki writes the way all novels should be told; the characters and relationships complex but beautifully crafted.

Needless to say: her prose enchants the reader and the experience of reading. What you can most expect is two narrators, two incredibly different woman, and the friendship* that blossoms one year. Both woman have flaws that tug at your heartstrings and simultaneously make you both sympathetic and skeptical of their reliability. Something about the summary and premise made me think: this is going to be a thriller, but I wouldn't be go so far when typing up a genre. Woman No. 17 is mysterious and fascinating, thoughtful and dark, but it never quite picks up the pace you'd expect.

Does that make it a bad novel? Absolutely not. I enjoyed it and finished it in under a day; it is the type of book that you indulge in and either connect with it or don't. Both Lady and S have a lot of baggage between the two and often don't do the right thing (or, you know, at all) but this is what makes reading them so captivating. As far as leads go, they are highly developed and will continue to push readers into compulsion. You love them, you hate them, it is all part of being a solidly written character. I felt Lady to be the most developed of the two but there's something darkly intriguing about S and her art.

There were a lot of cringe-worthy moments, too.

Which is good for the story itself but weren't constantly my cup of tea. I could have left quite a few of the more mundane plots, such as S and her borderline toxic relationships with art, family and Lady's eldest son. Then there's the subplot with Lady's estranged husband, sister-in-law and the eventual conclusion to it all. I am on the fence about her connection with her teenage son's father. It felt right for the story but still a little shaky and... less than stellar. Another thing I could have done without: the blink-and-you'll-miss-it-plot of the bunny S 'rescued' from her mother, which eventually drowned.

(Because, spoiler alert: it served no significance to the plot. None.)

Overall, despite its flaws and the underwhelming conclusion/resolution to the central storylines, I did enjoy Woman No. 17 for the better part of the novel. Was it my favourite from the year? Not at all--but Lepucki has a way about her writing that feels like a warm embrace from someone you don't know if you can trust. It's comforting in an almost chilling way.

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