Katie Crouch

Katie Crouch, author of the new novel Abroad, writes:

“Even as I get older, I am drawn again and again as a reader to smart, badly behaved young female characters who are on their own in the world, struggling to make sense of love, sex, friendship, and work. I also enjoy a bit of danger. The voice has to be a bit off for me to go with it. And if there’s a whiff of gratuitous cuteness or sentimentality, I’m out. I want thoroughly unlikable girls who make huge mistakes for no reason, because in real life, we don’t always know why we do the things that we do.

“Below are three books I adore. All of the heroines in these books inspired the creation of Taz Deacon, the protagonist in Abroad. I don’t know if I want these women babysitting my kid, but they are wonderful characters, and the writing and pace are first rate.”

After Leaving Mr. McKenzie
By Jean Rhys

“Jean Rhys is one of my all-time-favorite writers. Her novels are short yet devastating. And she’s just so unwilling to give anyone a break. In this book, Julie, a chorus girl, is spiraling downward after being left by her lover. Her complete dependence on men (the book is set in Paris in the 1920s) is terrifying. The story is tight and relentless all the way through. I rip through this one at least once a year.”

The Blindfold
By Siri Hustvedt

The Blindfold is this legendary writer’s first book and my favorite of hers. In this novel-in-stories, Iris Vegan is an impoverished graduate student in New York. I love how having no money is met with fear and utter despair here, which is such a very real phenomenon. So many times in novels characters say they’re broke, but being a woman alone with no money in New York invokes a special sort of peril. The book has some wonderful twists, during one of which Iris cross-dresses and another when she has a brush with madness. She also falls completely for the wrong man. It’s a truly wonderful psychological thriller.”

August Is a Wicked Month
By Edna O’Brien

“I am a huge fan of all of Edna O’Brien’s work, but this early novel is singular in its pace and spare prose. The writing is so sexy, the story so unexpected. The story starts with Ellen Sage sitting in her garden, waiting for her lover to arrive. He does, setting off a series of disappointments. On a whim, Ellen decides to go to France on a vacation, where she wanders around, lonely, until she falls into a jet-setting group of partiers. It sounds fluffy, but O’Brien’s searing take on the narcissism of travel for travel’s sake had me exclaiming aloud. And the novel has one of those wonderful endings that is so unexpected yet so very inevitable. . . . A wonderful book.”