Must Read Well
September 23, 2022
Book Review

Must Read Well

reviewed by Fiona Cook

Liz Miller is a Ph.D. candidate in what could charitably be called a transitional period. Her boyfriend has just left her for someone else, which means she’s living on her best friend Petra’s couch. She’s almost broke, and her dissertation has just been rejected due to a lack of depth on one of her subjects; Anne Taussig Weil, author of a trailblazing work of feminist fiction.

But when Liz is browsing Craigslist in the slim hope of finding an apartment she can afford, an unusual listing catches her eye – and it starts to look like she may have just had a single stroke of luck that will balance out everything else going on for her. From the description of the apartment and the stipulation that the tenant be willing to read aloud to their landlady, Liz knows that her potential new landlady is none other than Ms Weil herself. It’s an opportunity she can’t pass up – even if she’ll have to deceive her way through the door.

Must Read Well was a slow burn of a novel, one that quietly impressed me. The dynamic between Anne and Liz is central to the story, and watching the two of them interact was a study in subtle relationships; the thawing of the wariness between two very closed-off women was naturally and cleverly portrayed.

Alongside the story unfolding in the modern day is Anne’s own story, told by Liz as she reads Anne’s journals back to her. In contrast to the measured pace of the central plot, the story of these journals is less controlled and more passionate – an insight into the private life of a very reserved woman that reveals the old saying to be true; still waters certainly do run deep.

This novel was intriguing, intelligent, and best of all, well told. Ellen Pall clearly knows her craft, and Must Read Well should find a very warm reception among readers looking for an absorbing and thoughtful story.

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