Rosewater by Liv Little – Book review

Rosewater is Liv Little’s debut novel and is equal parts a coming of age story and a contemporary romance. Billed as the next Queenie, I was intrigued, but apart from both stories featuring young Black women in their 20s living in London, I found them to be very different stories.

Opening sentence: Several loud thuds ricochet from my front door and reverberate through my little space.

Meet Elsie

Elsie is our lead character. She’s a poet who is currently jobless, hoping to make a career out of her talent but applying for bar and waitressing jobs in the meantime. When she gets evicted from her flat, she moves into her friend Juliet’s spare room. Things are slightly tense between them as Juliet had previously told Elsie she has feelings for her. Elsie is gay but isn’t comfortable mixing friendship and relationships. Or really, isn’t yet comfortable fully reflecting on her feelings for Juliet.

Rosewater looks at the things that drive people – primarily money, sex and loneliness. They are universal and so even though these characters are exploring them through their own lens, they are resonating themes.

I want to laugh at myself because even when I can’t afford to, I’m here, paying for food in the hope of sex. Priorities.

More than one side to everyone

Rosewater was great as not only was Elsie a layered and complex character, but Juliet was really interesting too. Her life blends her career as a teacher with her other as an x-rated cam-girl. It’s interesting commentary on what jobs society deems acceptable and how two juxtaposing careers can exist together. Everyone has more than one side to their character, right?

People are forever trying to overcomplicate things, dress everything up, but there’s power in simplicity.

Rosewater felt like it had two halves, the first being a quite visceral coming-of-age story (albeit coming-of-age slightly older as Elsie isn’t a teenager – although I liked that element as it’s not like people have their lives together just because they turn 20) then Elsie starts to open up a little and the romantic element blooms. The flow is so easy to read and – unsurprisingly given Elsie’s love for poetry – feels poetic in its conclusion.

It makes strong social commentary and covers a variety of themes, then the ending brings it all together in a much sweeter way than I think I was anticipating. You get so emotionally caught up in Elsie’s story, you both want her to get her break and just give herself a break. I found Rosewater to be really enticing, I like Liv Little’s voice and will look out for her future stories.

  • Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC;
  • Get your copy of Rosewater here;
  • Published by Dialogue Books April 2023;
  • 320 pages;
  • My rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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