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What, after all, is a storyteller? In this seething exposé, itself the work of a fictional storyteller crafted by a real-life storyteller, “ripping through bone and gristle to the tender bleeding heart”, June Hayward, aka Juniper Song, takes us deep into the “grotesque” world of commercial publishing, from a wannabe author’s point of view, revealing to us the Machiavellian spawn churning within.

June, our first person POV narrator, is in awe of Athena Liu, her authorly nemesis, a fantastically successful (indeed, unbearably so) Yale colleague, who was taken her writing career to heights June can only dream of. And dream she does, as she finds herself inescapably locked into the self-immolating position of both worshipping Athena, and envying her with every pore of her being.

Without giving the plot away, (no spoilers here), as we follow June on her path to subsume and emulate Athena, every hint of morality or shame is rationalized and swept aside in her desperately distasteful bid to enter the world she now feels unfairly denied her.

What follows is a searing, satirical look at diversity; racism; reverse racism; ambition; the terrifying all-consuming ‘truth’ of social media; and of course, the ultimately-vicious big business of publishing – and last but not least, the fate of those angst-filled storytellers caught in the midst, forevermore “racing along the hamster wheel of relevance”.

Darkly convincing, (written by a hugely successful author bearing deep similarities to our literary heroine), I loved this only-slightly over-the-top illumination from within, and the depths of desire and despair it takes us to, – an unputdownable tale of angst and redemption, hovering, tantalizingly, just out of reach, as our storyteller tells the story of her storyteller (and her story and on, it goes…).

A great big thank you to the publisher, the author and Netgalley for an ARC of this book.
All thoughts presented are my own.

#yellowface #netgalley #williammorrow #rfkuang #booksofHCC #harpercollinsCA

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