A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing by Jessie Tu

Reading this at the moment. Am in no state to write my own.

Review by Kara Nicholson for Readings

Jessie Tu has worked as a classical violinist, teacher and journalist. This is her first work of fiction and it is an astonishing debut. The lonely girl at the heart of this novel is Jena Lin. Jena’s grandfather was a famous pianist and child prodigy in China. In Australia, Jena was also once considered a child prodigy. By the age of fourteen she had won seven international violin competitions and the chance to play a solo with the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. During the performance she had a public meltdown and retreated from the limelight. Her grandfather always said that it was the destiny of the talented to suffer and to fulfill their excessive needs at any cost. 

Now in her twenties, Jena lives in Sydney and has begun to play the violin again. She is auditioning along with her best friend for a permanent orchestral role in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Jena’s daily routine of practice and rehearsal is relentless, and she can be unpleasant and prickly. She also considers herself to be a sex addict. In the absence of the attention and acclaim given to a soloist musician she finds random sex with a variety of men almost as fulfilling. Her needs are excessive, but she will meet them at any cost. 

Jena gets the job but loses her best friend in the process. She then meets Mark, who is in a long-term relationship with someone else. Mark is rich, middle aged, racist and sexist, but self-sabotaging Jena is drawn to him. She is lonely. There is such a disconnect between Jena Lin the gifted Australian violinist and Jena Lin the sex addict that the decisions she makes are heartbreaking. Jena then wins an internship with the New York Philharmonic and her life seems about to change for the better. She moves to New York just as Trump is elected and the experience is not quite what she expected. 

This is a fascinating and intense debut that challenges systemic racism and misogyny, particularly in the progressive artistic world. It is confronting but it is also brilliant and original. Jessie Tu is an incredible new voice in Australian literature.


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