Yellowface, by R.F. Kuang

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Hear me out.

This is a grim and also funny book about the lifestyle of a bestselling author. The protagonist, June Hayward, watches her successful writer friend Athena Liu die in an accident in the first chapter, then takes her unpublished manuscript and successfully sells it as her own. June makes some awful decisions and is repeatedly confronted with the consequences of her actions; there’s also some wickedly vicious commentary on the perception of Chinese culture and especially Chinese history in today’s America (and I don’t think that other Western countries would be very different). It’s a short but compulsive read; you can’t quite believe that June has got herself into a position where her career success depends on a gruesome lie, but you can absolutely believe the contortions that follow. You can get it here.

For some bizarre reason this book was on the BSFA Long List for Best Novel. It has no sfnal content. June thinks that she sees Athena a couple of times after her death, but I don’t think we are meant to think that it is “really” her. If it is on the BSFA short list, I will not vote for it, even though I think it is a brillliant book.

Easy Bechdel pass – in the very first chapter, before Athena dies, she and June are talking to each other about their writing and men are barely mentioned.

This was my top unread non-genre book. Next on that pile, on a rather different level, is Moonraker’s Bride by Madeleine Brent.