Susan Johnson

A new Susan Johnson novel is always a treat, partly because you get the sense that with each one she has set herself a specific creative challenge, and partly because she is such a fine writer. In From Where I Fell (Allen & Unwin, $32.99 pb, 338 pp), the epistolary novel, popular in the nineteenth century, has been updated, with the entire work in the form of emails. Nothing new in that, but what makes this different is that the contemporary problem of emailing someone unintentionally is followed through with that intellectually teasing ‘what if’ thread: what if the person you accidentally contacted was someone with whom you wanted to keep communicating? What if this person was someone to whom you could confess your most private thoughts? And what if this person never responded in a conventional manner?

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‘How did you even begin to fit two adult lives together so that they happily resembled a whole?’ Jonathan Lott, the main character in Susan Johnson’s tenth novel, asks himself. It is giving little away to say that by book’s end there are no definitive answers. But Jonathan’s attempts to make sense of his wife Sarah’s defection from their decades-lo ...

Why is the measure of love loss? As I worked my way through the hundred vignettes that comprise My Hundred Lovers, my thoughts kept returning to this first line of a novel by Jeanette Winterson that is similarly preoccupied with the interlinking of the body, love, sex, and death. My Hundred Lovers is the story of a life rendered as a litany of bodily memories. The twin-faced a ...