Title: While You Were Reading
Author: Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus
Published: July 1st 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: 3.5 stars
Words are messy. Love is messier.
A hilarious, insightful new novel from the creators of Books on the Rail
Meet Beatrix Babbage – 29-year-old dog-earer of books and accidental destroyer of weddings.
After ruining her best friend’s nuptials, Bea relocates to the other side of the country in search of a fresh start, including meeting new people, living life to the fullest and finally pulling off balayage.
But after a few months, life is more stagnant than ever. Bea’s job is dead-end. Her romantic life? Non-existent. And her only friends are her books, her barista and her cleaning lady.
Then Bea stumbles across a second-hand novel, inscribed with notes. Besotted with the poetic inscriptions, Bea is determined to find the author … and along the way, she finds herself entangled in one hell of a love quadrangle.
Funny, poignant and insightful, While You Were Reading reveals that there’s no such thing as perfection, the value of true friendship and, most importantly, the power of not living in fiction, but still reading it … Often.
A love story for book lovers that celebrates much more than romance.
Bibliophiles unite, the team behind the Books on the Rail movement and the co-author’s of The Book Ninja, which was released to great success last year, are back. While You Were Reading is a fresh, very contemporary, fun and sweet romance, complete with moments of mystery. This is a delightful novel that will thoroughly engage all booklovers. Just don’t let the book list at the end pass you by!
While You Were Reading makes the claim that ‘words are messy. Love is messier’. I would like to agree and I enjoyed this love story very much. While You Were Reading is a double celebration – of the power of romance and the written word. It follows the complicated life of Bea, who commits the ultimate faux pas, accidentally ruining her best friend’s marriage, which was only hours old. Escaping from Perth to Melbourne, in search of a new life, Bea finds life over east a whole new ball game. She meets some new faces and frequents some very different places, from hip bars, coffee houses and plenty of bookshops. Despite the wealth of contrasted experiences from laid back Perth, Bea is lonely. A rare bookstore find, with an intriguing set of personal annotations, helps Bea to overcome her loneliness and at the same time, unravel the mystery identity of the author of the rare book’s inscriptions. Love also enters Bea’s life in a way she did not expect, gently reminding her of the importance of friendship above all else.
I follow the writing duo of While You Were Reading and The Book Ninja rather religiously on social media. I am in awe of their Books on the Rail Project, it does such a great things for readers and authors alike. It is fabulous to see this writing team power on with their second release. While You Were Reading is snappy, poignant and romantic. It is set to a very modern backdrop, complete with plenty of side additions to the main narrative. Expect alternative routes to this story, which compliments the overall narrative. These include plenty of Instagram posts, emails, letters, messages and texts. All these work together to give this novel a very here and now, present time feel.
I felt really, really sorry for Bea, the main character in While You Were Reading. The opening scene is like a social horror movie! Bea ultimately wrecks her best friend’s wedding, through just a simple slip of the tongue. We can all do this, we are capable! Berg and Kalus show us that Bea is simply human at the end of the day, but this terrible act has long standing consequences. Bea is very hard on herself, her confidence takes a big knock and it takes her a long time to recover. She decides to pack her bags and start afresh on the other side of country, away from laid back Perth, to chic Melbourne. I loved the Melbourne sequences. I recently made my first trip to Melbourne from Perth, much like Bea, late last year. I was seduced by Melbourne’s cafes, bars, shops, culture and of course the bookshops! These aspects are portrayed very well by the authors of While You Were Reading.
The mystery of While You Were Reading is tied up nicely to the book side of things and the romance in this story, which I liked very much. I loved the emphasis on the book, Meeting Oliver Bennett (I admit I looked it up in the hope that I could get my hands on it). I also appreciated the bridge that was ultimately crossed between friendship and romance, with a few dips in between. These experiences contribute to Bea’s character growth, which I did enjoy observing. There are some influential characters linked to the mystery, romance and friendship side of things in While You Were Reading. I am sure many readers will find these protagonists completely agreeable. From Bea’s friend Dino, Zach, Martha and even Bea’s social influencer sister, it was a fun cast to play around with. I did feel like I was a little too old for this crowd at times, but I am sure the fun story and agreeable characters will appeal to a large audience type, especially given the popularity of these authors.
Ultimately, While You Were Reading is a strong contemporary love story, very much situated in the present, which pays a great tribute to the book world. It is a predictable comfort read, that will definitely hit the warm and fuzzy spot for booklovers.
While You Were Reading by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus was published on 1st July 2019 by Simon & Schuster Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the authors of While You Were Reading, Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus, visit here.
*I wish to thank Simon & Schuster Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
While You Were Reading is book #100 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge