Julie Cohen

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Louis & Louise – Julie Cohen

Published January 24, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

If you could look at one life in two different ways, what would you see?

Louis and Louise are separated by a single moment in time, a strike of chance that decided their future. The day they were born is when their story began.

In one, Louis David Alder is born a male.
In the other, Louise Dawn Alder is born a female.

Louis and Louise are the same in many ways – they have the same best friends, the same parents, the same dream of being a writer and leaving their hometown in Maine as soon as they can. But because of their gender, everything looks different. Certain things will happen in their lives to shape them, hurt them, build them back up again. But what will bring them back home?

What did I think?:

This review comes with an enormous thank you to the wonderful Orion Books who just before Christmas, hosted a Books And Baubles event in London where they showcased some of the fiction they’re most excited about for 2019. I was fortunate enough to pick up a few proof copies that gave me a bit of a “book flutter,” but I think it was Louis & Louise that provoked the biggest reaction as I’m sure my blogging bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages can confirm as I was delighted to meet up with her again at the event. I’ve been a huge fan of Julie Cohen’s work after reading Dear Thing and more recently, her last novel Together and absolutely adoring them so it was a no-brainer that I was going to pick this one up too.

Cohen always chooses such thought-provoking subjects to write about and puts so much heart and soul into her writing that you can almost see her individual thoughts about the issue exuding from the pages. As I’ve come to expect from her novels, Louis & Louise was such a contemplative and touching reading experience that encompasses subjects which I will continue to mull over for days to come.

Julie Cohen, author of Louis & Louise.

As a rule, I tend to steer clear of stories that are generally sentimental, for example, romance novels, stories about Christmas etc – things along that vein. That’s not because I’m turning my nose up at them or the authors writing them because they’re doing a fantastic job and obviously have a huge market of readers. It just isn’t me. I like my stories to be a bit meatier, have a bit more substance, some dark and difficult moments and characters that you can really appreciate for their originality and development. That’s why I love Julie Cohen. Don’t let some of the cover art fool you, Julie is an absolute wonder at taking extraordinary people, following their lives, throwing in some despair and struggles whilst the reader remains breathless, desperate to know whether they’ll sink or swim. There aren’t always happy endings, not everyone gets that fairy-tale or handsome prince but I appreciate this even MORE – it’s a metaphorical smack to the face that screams of authenticity and gritty real-life.

Louis/Louise ?

In Louis & Louise, Cohen follows two different people that are actually the same person. Kind of. We learn about a couple, Irving and Peggy where in one thread they have a baby boy whom they call Louis and in the other thread they have a baby girl and call her Louise. The narrative than follows Louis and Louise in alternate chapters, almost like a Sliding Doors effect and explores how different their stories might be depending on what gender they are, even down to the relationships they have with their parents. I found this to be a tremendous way of investigating how much gender defines us as a person and how certain live events can shape the future trajectory of our future depending on how we are treated. As Cohen herself expresses in the very early moments of the novel, gender begins to press itself on us from the very moment we are born, from being one of the first things the doctor/midwife tells your mother i.e. “It’s a boy/girl!,” to the kinds of clothes and toys that are bought to eventually, the expectations put on you as a female or male.

Louis & Louise is a stimulating, intelligent piece of fiction that made me consider a lot of things including my own sub-conscious gender biases that I’m trying very hard to address and challenge. I connected with both Louis and Louise as people and found their individual journeys through life fascinating and at times, heart-breaking. The author has once again outdone herself with not only a beautiful character study but a story that digs deep into the relationships between families and friends, the nature of sexuality and gender and how the principles individuals are given according to this affects their lives. It was a moving, poignant novel that I thoroughly enjoyed, leaving me in eager anticipation for whatever Julie Cohen might write next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


Mid Year Freak Out Tag 2017

Published July 18, 2017 by bibliobeth

Hi everyone! Now I don’t normally do tags but I’ve seen this one hopping around blogs and book tube videos and it just looked too fun not to participate in. Here are my answers!

1.) The Best Book You’ve Read So Far This Year

Aaagh, this is so hard already! According to my GoodReads stats, I’ve awarded twenty books five stars this year so far and there were quite a few contenders for the crown. I’ve gone with The White Road by Sarah Lotz however as it’s a book I’m still thinking about months after reading it. SO GOOD.

2.) Your Favourite Sequel This Year?

Tastes Like Fear is the third book in the Marnie Rome series by Sarah Hilary. I could quite easily have picked the fourth book as well but again, if I only had to pick one, this would be it. I loved the plot of this novel and don’t even get me started about how amazing the characters are.

3.) A New Release That You Haven’t Read Yet But Really Want To?

There are so many fantastic books on my TBR but this one in particular I’m really looking forward to getting to. It was shortlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction earlier this year and I’ve only heard great things about it!

4.) Most Anticipated Release For The Second Half Of The Year?

Regular visitors to my blog may not be surprised at my choice! If I had to choose ONE author over all others, it would be Stephen King every single time. This new novel is a collaboration with one of his sons, Owen King and I literally cannot wait. Although I’m going to have to as I’ve banned myself from buying anymore SK’s in hardback which means I’m going to have to wait for the paperback release. SOB 😦

5.) Your Biggest Disappointment?

This is a very recently finished graphic novel for me and SUCH a disappointment. I was really hoping I would love it and if it hadn’t been so short, I would probably have DNF’d it to be honest. I will be doing a Mini Pin It Review with more of my thoughts about it at some point.

6.) Biggest Surprise Of The Year?

Conclave by Robert Harris. I wasn’t expecting to like this book at all after being disappointed with a previous read by this author. I was so shocked and pleasantly surprised when I thoroughly enjoyed it! Who knew that the process of electing a Pope could be so thrilling?

7.) Favourite New To You Or Debut Author?

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt is a novel based on the real story of Lizzie Borden whose father and step-mother were murdered with an axe, allegedly by Lizzie but other culprits are also suggested. It’s macabre, shocking, disgusting and AMAZING. I will now read anything Sarah Schmidt writes!

8.) Your New Fictional Crush?

To be honest, I don’t really get fictional crushes. If I had to choose someone that makes my heart beat slightly faster when I’m reading however, I’d have to go for Roland Deschain from Stephen King’s epic Dark Tower series.

9.) New Favourite Character?

Can I cheat and have two?! Robbie and Emily from Together by Julie Cohen were adorable and I loved reading about their relationship.

10.) A Book That Made You Cry?

The Snow Child was a recent re-read for me and really affected me on a personal level this time round. I actually upped my rating to five stars (from four stars previously) after I had finished. It’s such a stunning story and you can never go wrong with a bit of fairy tale!

11.) A Book That Made You Happy?

I don’t read very many “happy,” books, I’m afraid I tend to verge towards the darker, more depressing tomes but reading The Essex Serpent recently made me so happy. The writing was out of this world and the plot and characters made me feel like I was in bed all cosy with a hot cup of tea.

12.) Your Favourite Book To Movie Adaptation That You’ve Seen This Year?

I haven’t actually watched a book to film adaptation recently, I always worry that it’s going to be nothing like the novel! I did recently re-watch Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone which is always excellent!

13.) Favourite Book Post You’ve Published This Year?

I found this question so tough! I never know how my blog posts are going to be received – sometimes I write one that I think is really good and I don’t really get a response then I write one I’m not so happy with and I get a really brilliant response. One of the reviews I most enjoyed writing this year was The Birds by Daphne du Maurier for my Short Stories Challenge. It’s easily one of the best short stories I’ve ever read.

14.) The Most Beautiful Book You Have Bought/Received This Year?

Again, there were a few contenders for this crown! I’ve been lucky enough to receive/buy some really gorgeous books this year, my Penguin Clothbound Classics come a close second but I had to choose Idaho by Emily Ruskovich. It looks even better in the flesh and I can’t wait to get to it.

15.) What Are Some Books That You Need To Read By The End Of The Year?

This has been on my TBR for the longest time and I really need to get to it by the end of this year. I will, I will!

I got this book for my birthday after wanting it for ages. I’ve heard some terrific things and it needs to be read.

Another book I’ve only heard great things about and it’s just crying out to me at the moment from my shelves!

Non-fiction feminism? Yes please! Will. Read. Before. End. Of. Year!!!

So that’s my answers, thank you so much for reading and I hope you’ve enjoyed my choices. Let me know in the comments if you agree with me or tell me what you might choose yourself. I’d like to tag my sister Chrissi Reads to do this tag as I think it’s something she would enjoy and anyone else who would like to do it, consider yourself tagged!


Together – Julie Cohen

Published July 13, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

This is not a great love story.
This is a story about great love.

On a morning that seems just like any other, Robbie wakes in his bed, his wife Emily asleep beside him, as always. He rises and dresses, makes his coffee, feeds his dogs, just as he usually does. But then he leaves Emily a letter and does something that will break her heart. As the years go back all the way to 1962, Robbie’s actions become clearer as we discover the story of a couple with a terrible secret – one they will do absolutely anything to protect.

Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, David Nicholls’s One Day and M L Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans.

What did I think?:

First of all, the hugest “thank you,” to Lauren Woosey and the lovely team at Orion books for sending me a copy of Julie Cohen’s new novel, Together in exchange for an honest review. I’ve only read one other of Julie’s novels, Dear Thing which was selected as part of the Richard and Judy Book Club here in the UK a little while ago and both myself and my sister, Chrissi Reads absolutely loved it. When I saw the advertisements for Together going around on Twitter (especially with this STUNNING cover), I knew I had to have it and am so grateful and excited for the opportunity to tell you all how madly I fell in love with these beautiful characters and their fascinating story.

The story is essentially a love story between Robbie and Emily which begins when they are older and going through some difficulties health-wise. The most brilliant thing about this narrative is however that the story begins here and then goes backwards in time so we see the entirety of their relationship, all their struggles and triumphs in reverse. We, the reader, find out very early on that there is a huge secret that the couple have kept throughout their time together, something that no one else knows and if anyone else finds out it has the potential to destroy them. As a result, Robbie and Emily keep quiet about the shadow in their past and just live each day together as a happy couple as their love continues to strengthen and grow. Of course, we eventually find out exactly what the secret is and it’s just as mind-blowing, devastating and heart-breaking as I could have anticipated that it might be.

Obviously, I’m not saying anything about the “big reveal,” but I just want to talk about how this book was presented to me by Orion Books which was completely wonderful. I read until a certain point in the narrative (perhaps about twenty pages from the end?) and then was asked to tweet how I felt at this period. The rest of the pages in the novel had been placed in an envelope and I then eagerly ripped it open, desperate to discover how the story would end and just what on earth was going on with our characters and their lives. Let me just say, it’s a goodie. No, that’s not even the word for it – it’s phenomenal, suck-your-breath in, gasp and hold it for a little while before you can breathe normally kind of good!

Throughout this novel, I completely fell in love with the characters of Robbie and Emily and the hardships they have been through as a couple. Of course by the end I was gaping in disbelief but in no way, shape or form did it change what I felt about the characters at all. I’m afraid they had already stolen my heart and I still continue to think about them and their story weeks after finishing the novel. I’m certain that one of the signs of a brilliant author is how much the narrative sticks with you after you’ve finished reading. If Together is anything to go by, I’m going to be thinking about Robbie and Emily for a long, long time. Julie Cohen’s delicious characterisation and beautiful writing style had me hooked from page one and I’m glad I had a day off when I began this novel as I didn’t put it down until I had finished it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):


Talking about Dear Thing by Julie Cohen with Chrissi

Published July 30, 2014 by bibliobeth


What’s it all about?:

Claire and Ben are the perfect couple. But behind the glossy façade, they’ve been desperately trying – and failing – to have a baby for years. Now, the stress and feelings of loss are taking their toll on their marriage. Claire’s ready to give up hope and get on with her life, but Ben is not. And then Ben’s best friend, Romily, offers to conceive via artificial insemination and carry the baby for them.

Romily acts in good faith, believing it will be easy to be a surrogate. She’s already a single mother, and has no desire for any more children. Except that being pregnant with Ben’s child stirs up all sorts of emotions in her, including one she’s kept hidden for a very long time: Ben’s the only man she’s ever loved.

Two mothers—and one baby who belongs to both of them, and which only one of them can keep.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: This book strikes me as something that you wouldn’t necessarily have picked up had it not been for the Richard and Judy book club. Do you think you would have read this book had it not been picked?
BETH: To be honest, I don’t think I would have rushed to read this book. Not saying that I didn’t enjoy it, because I thought it was a beautiful read, but there seems to be a lot of this kind of fiction around at the moment in the contemporary genre, and the story didn’t seem like it would stand out. I’m glad that I was proved wrong however as it’s a story that pulled me in from the very first page and kept me reading until the end.
BETH: Throughout the novel, we see notes to “Thing,” the unborn child. How did this fit in with the story and was it enjoyable?
CHRISSI: For me, I felt that it worked. I actually wouldn’t have minded seeing more letters to ‘Thing’. I think it would have really expressed the character’s feelings really well. To me, it didn’t make the story feel stilted at all. Instead, it gave a more emotional impact.
CHRISSI: Discuss how the difficulty of having a baby affects Claire and Ben differently.
BETH: For me, it seemed like Claire and Ben were on different pages regarding trying to have a baby from the start. Claire is obviously devastated when their attempts, both naturally and using IVF fail and is ready to give up. Ben meanwhile is devastated that she would think of giving up when he is ready to give it another shot. I thought it was quite selfish on Ben’s part in a way, as it was poor Claire that had to undergo all the uncomfortable processes of both the fertility testing and the IVF treatment and she also experienced the physical effects of what losing an embryo feels like. Claire also feels a tremendous guilt as she has been told that it is because a fault in her eggs that they cannot conceive whereas Ben knows he is perfectly “healthy.”
BETH: Discuss the differences between Romily and Claire and how their “parenting styles” contrast.
CHRISSI: Ooh, good question. I feel like Romily had a much more laid back style to parenting. I feel like because she was on her own, without Posie’s dad around she could parent however she wished. Whereas having a baby was something that Claire really, really wanted and hadn’t yet had. I think she probably had thought a lot about how she would do things differently if she was Posie’s parent. Perhaps Claire’s view of parenting was a bit idyllic. It’s certainly harder than it looks, especially on your own. I think Claire was more of a structured, controlled parent whereas Romily was more carefree. There’s no right or wrong way, of course! Despite their differences in parenting styles, Posie was a well brought up, happy girl and that’s the main thing.
CHRISSI: Could you connect with all of the characters?
BETH: I found it quite easy to connect and identify with the two main female leads, Claire and Romily despite the difference in their personalities. To be honest, I found it quite difficult at times because I understood where both women were coming from and saw both of their points of view so it was quite heart-breaking to know that one of them may miss out where a child is concerned. I found it a bit more tricky to connect with Ben as I found him quite selfish at points and thought he didn’t really consider or respect either woman’s feelings.
BETH: The father of Romily’s child Posie comes back into the picture, how did this affect the story in your opinion if at all?
CHRISSI: I’m torn with this question, because my personal opinion is that everyone should know who their father is, even if they aren’t the nicest person in the world. I don’t think it necessarily made the story any better though. It was nice that Posie got to know her father, but I think if he hadn’t been in the story, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.
CHRISSI: Do you think that this book is more centred towards women? Would men enjoy it?
BETH: I hate to gender stereotype, but I do think this novel falls perfectly in the contemporary women’s fiction genre. This is because I think a lot of women will be able to identify with the female characters easier than a man might. As to whether men would enjoy it, I’m really not sure! Perhaps a certain type of man who is comfortable reading this kind of fiction? Or perhaps men who are going through fertility treatment with their partners as it may help them understand what their other half is going through.
BETH: Put yourself in the position of the three central characters. What do you think you would do in their situation?
CHRISSI: Another good question. Oh, it must be so hard to be Claire. To want children so badly and to know that it’s a problem with YOU, must be heart-breaking. I’m not sure I could have a surrogate, I think I’d really struggle with the emotions and wanting to be pregnant myself. I think if I was unlucky enough to be in Claire’s position, I’d have to consider adoption. It’s a tough one though. As for Romily, I thought her reasons for the surrogacy were really heartfelt, but she wasn’t in the best position emotionally to consider having a baby for someone else. It wasn’t a well thought through process! I think if I was considering being a surrogate I’d have to seriously consider the pros and cons and not just jump into it. If I was Ben, I’d try to be a hell of a lot less selfish then he was!
CHRISSI: Explore Romily’s offer to be a surrogate and what motivates her to do it.
BETH: Romily already has a child of school age, Posie, and she has had quite a tough time as a single mother, trying to raise her child on her own while completing a PhD and working full-time. As a result, she does not see any more children in her immediate future. She has also been head over heels in love with her best friend Ben for as long as she can remember which is a bit of a problem when he’s married to Claire and trying to have a baby. Seeing Ben broken-hearted when Claire wants to give up trying for a baby leads her to offer to become a surrogate for them without fully thinking through the implications of such an offer (and perhaps having one too many drinks!). Once offered though it is a bit difficult to take it back, especially when she sees the happiness on Ben’s face. Having a baby with the man she loves seems perfect to her irrational state of mind, even if she has to give the baby away to Ben and Claire, it all seems worth it.
BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: I would. I thought the writing style was very engaging!
Would WE recommend it?:
BETH: But of course!
CHRISSI: Of course!
BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):
CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):