When I first started writing Yuri fanfiction, I was pretty much one of a handful of women writing in the genre and, as far as I can remember (which isn’t very far,) I was *the* out lesbian doing so. So, I got a lot of emails from people – women who were happy to see stories by a woman, not some nerdy teen boy, etc and also from guys who wanted my feedback. Many of these guys wrote to me to tell me how other people said “they wrote women well.” I almost invariably disagreed, because any writer who sees his or her characters as “men” or “women” is probably too caught up in gender roles to write anyone well.
So, when recently I received a message on Facebook from Dan Holloway asking me to read and possibly review his lesbian novel, Songs From the Other Side of the Wall, I cringed. Years of reading sad attempts at “realistic” lesbians written by men made me reluctant to read this. I told Dan that I would read the book with one upfront condition – if I hated it, I would not review it, because no one would gain from me skewering it. If I did not hate it, I *might* review it, but no promises. Dan was totally cool with that. And he never once said he “wrote women well,” so I had some hope.
Songs From the Other Side of the Wall is a *very* good book.
6 pages into it, I was really, really enjoying it. The main character was likable, real and yes, I would have her over for lunch.
The story follows Szandrine, (don’t roll your eyes – there’s a reason for her name,) a young Hungarian musician, after the loss of a dear online friend and his sister, with whom Szandrine had fallen in love at first sight.
Dan’s writing is convincing – Szandrine is mature for her 17 years, but still 17. Her poetry, songs and writing ring absolutely dead-on true for her personality and age.
The story travels in intent, and often location, all over Europe, which I quite liked. But above all what holds this book together is Szandrine; her loves, her likes and dislikes, her quirks and even her stupid skinny jeans. lol
It’s a rather complicated story, and not perfect – there about three handwaves too many to be perfect. There was one instance – one in the entire book – where the author’s voice overshadows the character’s – easily ignorable. And honestly, I didn’t love the ending. I didn’t like where it had been going, and I wasn’t thrilled with where it ended up, but I never once thought about stopping reading. Overall, a great read. Thank you Dan, for being brave and sending me this book. And for writing women well. :-)
Story – 8 Good story, but too many handwaves
Characters – 9 Very real people
Lesbian – 10
Loser Anything – .5, because chances are without pictures, they couldn’t follow it.
Overall – 8
Now, here’s the best part – you can read this book too. For free. Dan is offering his book as a free PDF download on his website. If you like it, I ask one thing from you – when it becomes available in print – buy it. The hard copy I received is a softcover trade book of decent quality. Definitely worth a buy.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Songs as much as I did.