A Life in Books: Books of the Year 2019
Shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2019
In a world where we present our diverse selves through social media, chatbots and messaging, this dark novel listens in on intimate secrets, desires and adultery.
This novel-within-a-novel charts the writing of a story about Richard and Anna, a middle-aged professional couple, who face the biggest crisis of their twenty-five-year marriage when he admits seeing prostitutes. The text unfolds through a dialogue between Anna, the writer, and her husband, Richard, the reader.
As the story of Richard and Anna progresses, the tension between them increases and, on several occasions, they stop speaking to each other. The writer’s novel compels them to examine their own marriage.
Gradually the differences between the characters in the novel on the one hand and the reader and the writer on the other appear to diminish to the point where we begin to wonder whether the reader, like Richard, pays for sex, and whether the writer, like her female protagonist, is coping with the situation by having several lovers.
‘Vesna Main’s latest fiction offers proof that formal invention of the highest order may well go along with a fine gift for human interest and narrative power. Rarely can novelistic dialogue have managed to convey such complex nuances of meaning, motive and mood. A singular achievement.’ —Christopher Norris
‘Within the tale are many interesting diversions. The author explores themes such as: addiction, obsessive behaviour, rewriting memory when exposed to new information. There are threads on class and the affectations of the intelligentsia. There are challenges to thinking that places itself as the moral high ground. The writing is tense and compelling. Although nuanced and layered the story has the feel of a thriller. It is admirable that so much has been fitted into such a concise volume. This is a clever and thought-provoking read.’ —Jackie Law, neverimitate
‘It is thought-provoking and insightful, and, while it could prove uncomfortable reading for anyone who is part of a middle-aged married couple, I think it is an important book and one that I can imagine prize judges responding to very positively as the year unfolds.’ —Scott Pack
‘This is the second jacket I’ve fallen in love with this year, another which fits its book perfectly. Always a joy when publishers use an image which is both strikingly original and appropriate. Vesna Main’s Good Day? recounts a daily conversation between a Writer and her Reader, who is also her husband, describing the progress of her novel about a couple whose marriage is strained to breaking point.’ —A Life In Books
‘The format might lead one to expect an ironic, fabular illustration of how unsophisticated readers get fiction wrong. But Main is more sophisticated than that. There are layers of fiction in Good Day?, each of them unstable.’ —Times Literary Supplement
‘Good Day? turns the structure of a typical novel inside out, and the experience of reading it is also transformed. The tale of Anna and Richard is disconcertingly fluid, because it hasn’t yet been settled – and the tale of the Writer and Reader is just out of our reach. There are also some nice touches that made me smile: it’s common enough for an author to incorporate one of their previously published short stories into a novel, but I’ve never seen it done quite like this… and I shall say no more about that!’ —David’s World of Books
‘In Good Day?, Main has created a clever, and thought-provoking story which engages as it delights. Its deceptively simple prose slices through layers of thematic enquiry to address contemporary concerns over identity, gender and representation. For all this, it’s an easy and compelling read, as tense as a thriller, twisting and turning, right down to its last postscript.’ —Litro
‘Beautifully depicted and on point given the complexities of the society we live in today, this modern take on the contemporary nature of marriage entertains as much as it explores the myriad of emotions that run deep in all forms of human relationships. A good read indeed.’ —Platform
‘In these beautifully observed stories, Main deftly explores love’s myriad forms.’ —Emily Rhodes, The Spectator
‘Lush Library Recommends: Anna James’ Books for 2018 Another collection of short stories … these look at ideas of loneliness, passion and obsession and the sometimes grey areas between them. In these experimental stories of different lengths and styles, her characters include a prostitute turned murderer, a self-destructive book collection and a perfectionist dinner party hostess.’ —Anna James
‘Main’s stories are vivid, strange, thrillingly brief and filled with sex, violence and the banal horror of daily life. They are unusual tales filled with often unlikeable characters. Temptation is for you if you like witty, sharp dialogue, experimental modernist fiction and stories which speak to the darkest corner of ourselves.’ —Megan Kenny, Disclaimer Magazine
‘Main is excellent at building suspense, which is very difficult to achieve effectively in a short story. The successful development and maintenance of suspense is the difference between plucking delicately on a string to set up a subtle, subliminal vibration of psychological discomfort, rather than sawing on it to create a jarring noise which just irritates. Main is a writer who works subliminal for all it’s worth.’ —Elaine Aldred, Strange Alliances