Firstly this is my first real book review so have that in mind whilst you read.
Secondly this book is the first LGBT book I have ever read, so I can’t really compare it to any other book from that genre but I kind of think that that is for the best!
This story starts with young Elisa who is unemployed and has a problem with finding a job in her profession (she is an art historian if you are interested). At the begging we see how much she interpreters herself as insignificant, a Nobody – something I think we can all relate to. After a while she lands a job that is not in the circle of her profession. She quickly collects all her things from her small family home and starts working at the Judith Shapiro Foundation whos main face is Judith Shapiro herself, a world famous mathematician and physicist. Well you can imagine that Elisa thinks of Judith as a Somebody, someone important and someone without whom the world will be empty. In some time the two of them become lovers and Elisa finds herself drown to Judith more than she could ever imagine. Judith is a very strange person with lack of emotional intelligence so it’s no surprise when all goes down hill for the unusual pairing.
What happens then? You will have to find that for yourself!
I personally have to admit I absolutely loved this book. And not because I got the opportunity to work with the lovely Katarina West – the author! While I was reading the fabula I was completely sucked in the story, obsessed with every single detail and character. It really offers something for anyone – you have the LGBT element, than mathematics and physics, history of art, self-questioning, love and pain. Katarina has found a formula for a perfect novel. I recommend this book for anyone, especially to those who are interested in LGBT books that aren’t only build on that storyline.
I got the amazing opportunity to interview Katarina and if you are interested in what she has to say (which you quite frankly should be) here are the interview questions and answers:
1. Who is that ONE writer that inspires you to write?
This is like asking a gourmand what is his or her favourite dish! But if I must give just one name, I think it would be Dostoyevsky. I devoured his books as a teenager, and he was the one who made me want to become a writer. This doesn’t mean that I’m a diehard classics or literary fiction fan. I’m reading Sophie Kinsella at this very moment, and loving every sentence of her novel! Suspense and crime novels are also my favourites. So yes, I’m omnivorous when it comes to reading, and most of what I read inspires me to write.
2. Since the book talks about same-sex relationship did you find it hard to write, and why?
Know something? It wasn’t. Quite the contrary, writing about their relationship was spontaneous, almost easy. What’s more, I think it might have been more difficult for me to write a love story between a man and a woman, because contemporary fiction, not to mention the history of literature, simply abounds in great heterosexual love stories. So I might have compared my novel with those famous love stories. Which means that I wouldn’t have said anything of my own. But now I had no examples. I hadn’t read any Lesbian love stories, so I was forging a path of my own.
3. What did you decide on first, the storyline or the title?
Usually the story line. Though my next novel is called The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice, and the title occurred to me about twenty seconds later than the story line.
4. Tell us what makes your book different from others and what makes it stand out!
It’s a love story between two women, and one of these women is a science genius à la Beautiful Mind. Now how common is that in mainstream fiction, even today, in 2015?
5. What is your favourite book/quote?
My motto for today is: What if I fall? Oh, but my darling what if you fly? I found it on Pinterest. I keep it inside my Thousand Tiny Miracle notes.
6. Do you consider yourself a Somebody, Nobody or something in between?
If there’s something of myself in this novel, it is Elisa’s insecurity. I used to be ruthlessly hard with myself, which is something that led me to write my debut novel, Witchcraft Couture. So yeah, I definitely used to think that I was a Nobody. Becoming a mother changed that, because for your own child you’re the greatest Somebody in the entire universe. Nowadays I think that I’m just… you know, Katarina. That’s enough for me.
7. If you could use only 5 words to describe your style of writing what would those words be?
Bubbly, florid and decorous, and stylishly overwritten. Oh no, that was seven words!
8. What is your writing process?
First manuscript version is pure hell. I just want to finish it as soon as possible. During the second and third versions I start to see the contours of the story, the way I had it in my head. After that, comes the fun part. And saying goodbye to your story and characters is difficult.
9. Would you ever consider doing a sequel where we can find out which path has Elisa chosen?
Ha – why not?
10. What is Margot’s deal? Is she jealous that Judith is with Elisa or is she simply that person who likes to meddle in other people’s lives?
Both, I think. She’s the kind of over-confident person who has no difficulties in meddling in other people’s lives. But one of the reason why she acted the way she did was that it irritated her that Judith Shapiro had noticed Elisa.
11. Was it scary writing about math and physics?
Brilliant question. Because it did. During the last editing phase I also worked with a mathematician to correct the science part. That was one of the most fascinating aspects of writing this novel. It was like a borrowing a brain that saw the world from a completely different angle.
12. Does the story have some autobiography details?
Apart from Elisa’s insecurity, there’s her struggle with studies and a doctorate. That comes from my life, because I wrote a PhD and for a period of time even considered an academic career, just like Elisa. Later on I abandoned that dream, again like her. Plus, I can identify with Fanny, her constant worry that she has made mistakes as a mother, and hasn’t been “good enough”. No one tells you that together with parenthood comes that faint nagging feeling, that constant guilt and worry. It’s like the tiny scribble in a contract, those conditions you don’t even bother to read.
13. What inspired you to write this novel?
There are two ways, I think, that novels are born. Either they come to you in a flash of inspiration, and you have the whole plot in your head in a matter of a nanosecond. Or then they just grow slowly within you, and you don’t even know how and why they are being born. Absolute Truth, For Beginners belongs to that latter group.
14. Is there any specific sentence you remember by heart and if there is why is that one so special to you?
“This is only the beginning.” That’s what Elisa says at the end of the novel. It’s the same concept as in Oh, but my darling what if you fly? The words are just different.
15. How do you pick the names of your characters? (Silly question, but I personally find that to be one of the hardest parts.)
And you’re right – because it is hard! I have old telephone directories, and I browse them. I can’t write about a character unless I know his or her name. Or I check names online. Often when a character doesn’t work, I change the name. Elisa was Elisa for most of the time, but her surname changed constantly, from Mori to Fini and then finally, to Mancini.
16. Has Elisa decided not to define her sexuality?
I think she will, later on. But the novel finishes too early to tell what she will choose, and how she will define her sexuality. Which was how I wanted it – I wanted to leave that decision to the reader, to imagine and think how she might grow as a person, and where life might lead her.
17. Can you introduce us to the main character?
She is Elisa, a twenty-something art history graduate, cerebral and perennially insecure. Elisa falls in love with a famous mathematician, Judith Shapiro, who is a science genius in the manner of Stephen Hawking or John Nash. Except that she is a woman. Some readers have, in fact, told me, that the real protagonist of this novel is Judith. One reader even told me that Judith Shapiro appeared in his dreams!
18. Do you already have a plan about your next project?
Yes, it’s a story about angels and destiny and having it all – in your second life. Like said, it’s called The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice, and it’s coming out in December 2016.
19. Any advice about conquering writer’s block?
Go out for a walk. Study foreign languages. Read, especially outside your own genre. Call friends to laugh and complain about your life. Go to movies. Go to concerts. See an art exhibition. Do manual work. Live. Take a pause from writing, but always give yourself a deadline, as to when you must start writing again.
20. What are three things you can live without?
Television. Big cities. Traffic jams.
21. The book cover looks amazing! Who designed it and how much where you a part of that process?
It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? Andrew Brown from Design for Writers designed it. I helped him as much as I could to visualise Elisa’s world, and then it was up to him to do the rest. I worked with Andrew on the cover of Witchcraft Couture, and it was so beautiful that I just wanted to give him a free hand to do whatever he wanted.
22. Where can we find you and the rest of your work?
If you want to hear about my everyday life in rural Tuscany, come to my blog or my Facebook fan page to say hello. I’d love to chat with you! Otherwise, you find all the information about me and my novels on my website !
Now for the fun part!
Cats vs Dogs Dogs, absolutely. Though don’t tell that to my cat, Morgana! She’d get offended.
Ebooks vs Physical copies Ebooks. If it’s, say, a nice art book, then a print version.
Coffee vs Tea Coffee, any time!
Candy vs Fruit Fruit. I’m not a candy person.
Phone vs Laptop Laptop. A writer’s best friend!
Summer vs Winter I’m transforming into a winter person. To my great surprise.
Facebook vs Twitter Both. Is that allowed?
Books vs Movies Books, and not just because I’m a novelist. But usually the original version is better.
Sci-fi vs Documentary Documentary.
Coke vs Pepsi Coke. Though for someone living in Chianti, maybe it should be wine…
Chocolate vs Vanilla Chocolate, chocolate and once more chocolate.
Music vs Dance Music. I’m a rotten dancer.
Left vs Right Left, but don’t ask me why.
Old vs New New. I still stubbornly believe that something wonderful is waiting for us tomorrow.
Absolute Truth, For Beginners will be officially published on 15 December, but it will be live on Amazon on 30 November. During the first two weeks of December it is on a special promotion which I have been given a chance to offer you so that you can buy it with only £0.99/$0.99. (The normal price of Absolute Truth is £3.99/$5.99, so there is a difference.)
I am also giving you a chance to get an Amazon eBook copy of the book via Rafflecopter. The giveaway started on the 6th of December and it ends on 31st of December, and as the only entry requirement you have to visit Katarina’s facebook fan page (I have already mentioned)! If you are interested in this giveaway click here – a Rafflecopter giveaway !