Emma Morgan’s A Love Story for Bewildered Girls follows the lives of three women in their late-twenties and early thirties: Violet, Annie and Grace. Set in present-day Leeds, the women’s various platonic, familial and romantic relationships unfold and overlap throughout the novel. The book offers a glimpse into each of the protagonists lives during a particular moment in time and allows us to see how each woman is shaped by the events and individuals they encounter.
Violet, Annie and Grace each have a relationship that is their central focus and while this drives the narrative forward, the novel as a whole is primarily character-led. The snappy chapters with headings such as ‘this is Grace and the goodbye’ and ‘this is when Annie goes ballistic’ work as vignettes that both foreground each women’s distinct perspective and help to add further texture to each character.
The way in which the characters’ lives intersect or have missed connections is reminiscent of Armstead Maplin’s Tales of the City series. Beyond the three protagonists, a series of distinctive and engaging female characters are peppered throughout the novel, offering titbits of other lives that orbit around the central figures, which is a joy. This subsequently left me wishing I could know even more about Grace’s four sisters or her lover Sam.
Morgan does an excellent job of ensuring that the lesbian and bisexual sexualities of her characters are acknowledged but do not become a sensationalised central focus. From the outset Grace is an out-lesbian and who goes on to navigate a complex relationship with Sam that parallels Annie’s ongoing challenges with new boyfriend Lawrence. In contrast Violet’s sexuality becomes more fluid throughout the novel and this is sensitively depicted in a way that avoids the trope of newly discovered same-sex desire resulting in a personal identity crisis.
A Love Story for Bewildered Girls is a thoughtful yet light and comic read; a series of snapshots which capture a set of memorable characters who are on the precipice of change.
Review by S. J. Mullan
You can buy A Love Story for Bewildered Girls here