This one’s been sitting on my tbr for awhile and I’m determined to make my way through my tbr this year, so when I saw it was available at my new library I knew it was time to give it a read. I’m glad I did because I ended up really enjoying the story and learning a lot from it!
In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.
Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.
In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.
Alternating between 1955 and 2017, this book examines lesbian pulp fiction books and the world’s view of LGBT people throughout history. It also explores the topics of love, breakups, divorce, growing up, being yourself, and friendship in very authentic ways.
The author did a great job of storytelling. Not only do we alternate time periods and POV but we also get excerpts of fictional pulp books. It might sound confusing but it was actually really easy to keep everything straight; in fact, all these components made the story feel so realistic and helped maintain the pacing. Each portion of the book helped with character and plot development for both of our main characters.
Throughout Pulp I learned a lot about McCarthyism, the Lavender Scare, and how the US has evolved regarding LGBT rights. As Abby points out, we still have a long ways to go when it comes to LGBT rights, but it’s so different from the moral panic and secrecy of the 50s. I knew a bit of the history, but it’s amazing in a very sad way that the government was so keen on hunting anyone suspected of being gay down under the guise of hunting for communists. The two storylines Robin Talley wrote complemented each other so well and really highlighted the differences between these two times without making it seem like everything was perfect now.
The side-plots were just as compelling as the main plot. Abbey/Linh’s and Janet/Marie’s relationship arcs was very realistic and moving. I love how Abbey’s family life impacted all other aspects of her life and strengthened her relationships with herself and others around her. I was hooked from the beginning and loved the ups and downs throughout the book. The ending was great: not everyone had a happily-ever-after in the traditional sense but it was a perfect ending for the book.
I would definitely recommend this book to pretty much anyone. The historical elements combined with the contemporary view made for a very interesting and educational read with very emotional conflicts.