Laura is expecting a baby. A twenty-four-year-old literature instructor, she lives with her partner Karl Peter in the heart of Bergen, a city in the westernmost part of Norway. She’s suffering from a strange sort of anxiety, which she suspects has something to do with the pregnancy: everything around her seems double, not quite like what it is.
Laura has more common anxieties as well, including a problem with her apartment. The buildings in her part of town are constructed of brick on the outside and wood inside, which makes them so flammable that they’re called “chimney houses.” If their chimney house were to catch on fire, there would be little chance of escape. Then, there are the noisy students living above and below, a drug dealer across the street, hypodermic needles littering the neighborhood. She decides that she and Karl Peter have to move before the baby comes, but this decision, too, seems to bring her nothing but anxiety.
Rarely is a book as delightful as June Gervais’s debut novel, Jobs for Girls with Artistic Flair, a story of people who do their best to be better and then fail and try again with courage and integrity. These characters cannot be dismissed or ignored, because they don’t give up. The novel is about belief: in one’s self, in others, and in the future. These days, such belief can be a difficult emotion to muster, so Gervais’s success in this regard is even more laudable.
The novel takes place in the mid-1980s in the fictional Long Island town of Blue Claw, somewhere near the location of Riverhead, New York. The novel’s time period is one that, until recently, I might have considered to be post-feminist. Women could have it all, we were told, and most of us believed it. Our innocence, or naiveté, had yet to be dashed. But Gina Mulley, the main character of Gervais’s novel, is another case entirely—she exists in a world without labels like feminism.
Review: June Gervais’s Jobs for Girls with Artistic Flair
This round of Friday Reads brings you mini book reviews from The Common’s Literary Publishing Interns. From shapeshifting professors to self-deprecating travelers, these reading recommendations will enliven your summer TBR list, whether you curl up with a book in the sunshine or cool off somewhere in the shade.
In this round of Friday Reads, we hear from two poets whose work was featured in Issue 23 of The Common. Read on for mini reviews of an imaginative and timely poetry collection and essays on the transportive power of that genre.
This month’s round of Friday Reads features two unforgettable collections of short fiction recommended by the TC team. Read on for a sparkling exploration of sapphic love, and dark tales where Japanese folklore is given new life.
Recommendations: Amora by Natalia Borges Polesso, translated by Julia Sanches and Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone by Sequoia Nagamatsu
There are two Russias in Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry’s passionate and accomplished debut short-story collection, What Isn’t Remembered, winner of the 2021 Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize. The geographical country, where many of the stories take place, and the mental state of Russianness, which characters carry with them in the diaspora. There is also America, an alluring, often disappointing exile—and there are Americans, mostly well-meaning, who struggle to live with their mercurial Russian lovers, spouses, friends, or children, whose Russianness comprises the psychic ramifications of political and historical traumas going back multiple generations—World War II, Soviet rule, the chaotic break-up of the USSR, or the Armenian genocide, to name a few.
Review: What Isn’t Remembered by Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry
This month’s round of Friday Reads features recommendations that span place and time: from interwar Greece to eighteenth-century London to a small-holding in present day Ireland. Read on to see what our Issue 22 contributors have been enjoying.
Recommendations: The Third Wedding by Costas Taktsis, The Question of Bruno by Aleksandar Hemon, Please by Christopher Meredith, Trivia: Or the Art of Walking the Streets of London by John Gay, and Savage Gods by Paul Kingsnorth