Thursday, 7 February 2019

Book review : Pulp - Robin Talley

Written by award-winning author Robin Talley, Pulp simultaneously tells two tales of teenage love and angst, separated by sixty years, but with a surprising number of echoes.

In 2017, Abby Cohen is having a tough time. Her ex-girlfriend, who she is still friends with, seems to be sending out mixed signals, her parents apparently can't stand to be in the same room together and she just has no motivation to get stuck into her college applications or the mountain of overdue school assignments that she needs to hand in. One project soon becomes her new obsession though : a project on classic 1950's lesbian pulp fiction and in particular, one author, Marian Love.

In parallel, back in 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones has her own share of problems too. She is in love with her best friend Marie and is just starting to follow her dream of becoming a writer, secretly penning her first story of lesbian love. It may seem harmless to modern readers, but back in the age of McCarthyism, to be gay was to sin and they risked losing their jobs and even the support of their families.

While the book will undoubtedly appeal to the LGBTQ market, I also found it fascinating as a heterosexual mum, especially in terms of historical fiction. I'd heard of President McCarthy and was aware of his campaign, ruthlessly seeking out communists and Soviets in the American government, but I didn't know that this also extended to gay people. The Lavender Scare, a term that I had never even heard of before, refers to the witch-hunt that McCarthy conducted against homosexuals in America. It must have been a scary time to have lived in, constantly wondering who would be telling tales - real or imagined - about you.

It is interesting to see how times have changed - Abby can be open about her sexuality and nobody is concerned about it, whereas Janet and her contemporaries have to live in secret or settle for a good old traditional, two-point-four-kids-and-a-picket-fence lifestyle to be happy and accepted by society - but also to realise that the teenage years are complicated, whichever day and age you live in.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: HQ Young Adult (13 Dec. 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184845712X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848457126

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.


  1. Sounds interesting

  2. An interesting twist on social history. Thanks, Cheryl.

  3. An interesting parallel narrative. McCarthy's times were awful for many reasons, but in the Soviet Union the homosexuality was legalised not that long ago, under Yeltsin's presidency, in the early 1990s. When I was in high school, one of the popular local radio presenters was "found" to be gay, and he was punished with a prison sentence. Truly ghastly.

    1. It's crazy to look back at some of the (to us now) incomprehensible rules and taboos, covering anything from black people, gay people, disabled people, women, single mothers ... I wonder what things that we take for granted now will be outed as bad practice in the future. Migrants maybe? Religion? :/


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