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Top Shelf With Jessie Tu

The author and critic on her new novel, the most astonishing book she’s read in years, and the author whose books she will always read

By Laura Brading

Jessie Tu is the author of the novel A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing. She is a journalist at Women’s Agenda and a book critic for the SMH and The Age. She is also about to release her sophomore novel The Honeyeaters and we think you’re going to love it (we did).

We caught up with Jessie to find out about the books that mean the most to her.

Describe your upcoming novel The Honeyeaters in one sentence.
“The novel follows a young literary translator as she fights for her own work to be recognised as she struggles against her imposing, enigmatic female boss.”

A book you recommend to everyone.
Tomorrow & Tomorrow & Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin. It is the most astonishing book I’ve read in years. It is filled with joy and centres the love of creating something, rather than the love for another person, which I absolutely think there should be more stories about from women. This book caused a huge rupture in me, in a good way. I just finished the final page and literally felt like leaping into the air and then going off to create something of my own. That’s what the best art can inspire in people.”


Tu's sophomore novel is about an emerging translator. The book publishes July 2.

You’re going on a week-long holiday. What is the correct number of books to take with you?
“Three. Two is too few and four is too many. There is such a fine art to this, isn’t there? Also, while on holidays, I’m inevitably acquiring more books.”

A book that changed your perspective.
“Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree is my all-time favourite book, because it comprehensively and exhaustively charts the love parents have for their children, even in the most difficult of circumstances and under the most challenging conditions.”

Contemporary or classic?
“Contemporary. Classics mostly bore me. I find them extremely difficult to empathise with.”

An author whose books you will always read.
“Deborah Levy. I just love her pacing and tone. Her autobiographical trilogy is a must-read for all women. The Cost of Living is extraordinarily important.”

Classics mostly bore me. I find them extremely difficult to empathise with.

A book you think more people should read.
“Andrew Solomon’s Far from the Tree, because it’ll expand your ideas about love. I read it in my early twenties and it made a huge impression on me. I wasn’t ready to be a parent then, but even so – it taught me so much about what love means, and how monumentally expansive a parent’s love for their child can be.”

A book you’re looking forward to reading.
“I loved the movie American Fiction and have been really desperate to read the book it was based on – Percival Everett’s Erasure which was published in 2001. I was recently chatting to Paul Daley (of the Guardian) and he recommended to me Everett’s 2021 book The Trees – he talked about it with such enthusiasm, I thought I really needed to put that on my list too!”

The Honeyeaters is published by Allen & Unwin and is out July 2.

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BY Laura Brading

Laura is PRIMER's books editor

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