1955: In an apartment on the Lower East Side, school teachers Dovie and Gillian live as lodgers. Dancing behind closed curtains, mixing cocktails for two, they guard their private lives fiercely. Until someone guesses the truth…
1975: Twenty years later in the same apartment, Ava Winters is keeping her own secret. Her mother has become erratic, haunted by something Ava doesn’t understand – until one sweltering July morning, she disappears.
Soon after her mother’s departure, Ava receives a parcel. Addressed simply to ‘Apartment 3B’, it contains a photo of a woman with the word ‘LIAR’ scrawled across it. Ava does not know what it means or who sent it. But if she can find out then perhaps she’ll discover the answers she is seeking – and meet the woman at the heart of it all…
I’m extremely grateful to the publisher and to the Squadpod for my review copy of That Green Eyed Girl. Apologies for the lateness of this review – I did read the book and get my cake made in time, though, so perhaps that compensates a little!
This was one of those books that I’d been looking forward to for a long time – something that always makes me a little bit nervous, just in case I don’t love it as quite much as I hoped. Fortunately, the opposite was true, and Julie Owen Moylan’s debut exceeded my high expectations.
It takes a lot of skill to thoroughly immerse the reader in a certain era, and in this story, the author manages this trick beautifully not once but twice. We flit between the New York of the seventies, all sweltering heat and teen anguish as we follow Ava on her quest to find the owner of the photograph, and the same city, streets and apartment in the fifties, with all the smoky jazz-filled glamour you could wish for. The dual timeline is handled so deftly – I could almost see the cinematic fade from one era to the other – and, rarely for me, I was equally invested in both timelines.
There is so much quiet elegance in this book, so much careful heart-breaking, an assembling and dissecting of feeling done with a masterfully light touch. Dovie and Gillian’s story would be enough to crack the hardest of hearts, but counterpoised with Ava’s mother’s tragic mental illness storyline, the emotional resonance of the book is so thick it hums. I really felt a kind of throbbing, aching urgency as I read this book, despite the gentle, almost lyrical tone. It is a book that taps into the core of what it means to feel, to love, and I was deeply moved by it.
It would be impossible to review this book without mentioning that there is a character you’ll love to hate – I suspect many other readers did a similar thing to me and shouted out loud at her! It is another strength of That Green Eyed Girl – there’s beauty and love and kindness, but also the messier, uglier side of humanity – betrayal and jealousy and dishonesty. It’s the perfect New York novel in that it encapsulates so much of life within its pages.
It’s a real pleasure to read a novel that feels so well-crafted, so elegant and stylish, and yet so full of emotion. It’s like music, each note perfectly placed, drawing out unexpected feelings with its careful pattern. I’m so glad to have discovered a new favourite writer, and I can’t wait to see what Julie Owen Moylan brings us next!
That Green Eyed Girl by Julie Owen Moylan is published by Penguin Michael Joseph and is available to purchase here.