Book review: The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor

Wednesday, November 29, 2023 Permalink

I enjoyed The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor though the end let it down a little for me. I mean, I liked where it finished… but then Cantor went a bit further, and for me, it was one twist too far. That said, this is an intriguing book – several tales within a tale. Within a tale. Or in some ways… fan fiction run amok!

Book review: The Fiction Writer by Jillian CantorThe Fiction Writer
by Jillian Cantor
on 29/11/2023
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1761422421
Pages: 304

Once-rising literary star Olivia Fitzgerald is in a downward spiral. After her second novel, a retelling of Rebecca, fails, her third novel can’t find a publisher. And her boyfriend breaking up with her hasn’t helped her creativity much either. Broke, newly single and struggling to write another book, Olivia jumps at the chance for a high-paying ghostwriting job when her agent calls her with the opportunity.

It almost seems too good to be true: all she has to do is spend a few weeks in Malibu interviewing Henry ‘Ash’ Asherwood, a recently widowed billionaire recluse, who wants her to write a book about a stunning family secret involving his grandmother and Daphne du Maurier.

But when she arrives at his Malibu estate, nothing is what it seems. For one thing, Ash is strangely reluctant to truly share his family secrets with her, and she keeps catching him in lies. For another, he seems more interested in her than their writing project (though is that really such a bad thing?). And when she discovers a more recent secret, Olivia finds herself caught up in a gothic mystery of her own.

This book dips back and forth between Olivia in the present and a manuscript by an unknown woman, and Cantor does a great job at hiding that author’s identity – giving us several options.

There are elements of this that are predictable. Olivia goes out of her way several times to tell us how ‘plain’ she is, yet Sexiest Man of the Year winner several-times-over is seemingly enamoured by her… before he spends time with her. I mean, I get that people are attracted to whoever, but Ash is falling over himself so it seems obvious there’s another agenda being played out. And many of his excuses for delaying their project seem a tad dodgy so we expect the worst, even though I hoped the trend was bucked and he ended up being genuine and sweet.

That being said, I liked Olivia and liked the amount of insight Cantor gives her here, questioning her own behaviour as well as those around her. She also pauses to consider her own past and some of the baggage she’s lugging around.

As someone who reads a lot and engages a little in the industry I liked the commentary around writing and publishing. On being a writer and its challenges, and the foibles of the publishing world.

Although it’s easy to get a sense of where this is going, Cantor’s ability to keep our manuscript author’s identity a secret as well as mysteries in Ash’s past and that of his grandparents kept me turning page after page. Eager for answers.

The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor was published in Australia by Simon & Schuster and is now available.

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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