Jessie Tu didn’t start out as an author. For fifteen years she trained as classical violinist. For a time she worked as a teacher, before studying law. But, as the Sydney based Australian writer told Guardian journalist Katie Cunningham in a July 2020 interview, she felt law wouldn’t allow her to speak her mind, whereas writing would.
And in her debut novel, A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing (published by Allen & Unwin, July 2020), Tu doesn’t hold back. Her protagonist, Jena, a classical musician in her early twenties, is likewise someone with a lot to say, even if she does not always express herself directly. But Jena is a woman on a quest. She’s intent on making a return to the great music halls of the world, venues she once filled as a child prodigy violinist.
But when she’s not on the stage, or practicing, Jena is on another pursuit; the pursuit of sex. And as much sex as she can find, at that. For Jena is a sex addict, and she doesn’t care where her next fix comes from. She is almost non-stop as she tears through Sydney, venturing from Bondi in the city’s east, to eclectic Newtown, in the inner west, to the well-heeled leafy North Shore, where she grew up. And many places in between.
If you enjoy perusing the diary of someone who cannot have enough sex, chances are you’ll enjoy A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing. Otherwise you may end up feeling a little like Jena, with a sense of emptiness that you neither recognise, nor can quantify. Her exploits do not always make for easy reading. Jena is often contradictory, and, along with many of the main characters, not always likeable.
You may even share in my frustrations, as Jena continues to invest so much of herself in people who clearly don’t care about her. A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing, which was long listed for the 2021 Stella Prize, and named winner of the Literary Fiction Book of the Year in the 2021 Australian Book Industry Award, is often provocative and confronting.
In the end, this was a story I enjoyed, even if the much hoped for ultimate catharsis didn’t eventuate. It is certainly a book that has divided readers, if reactions to the story at Good Reads are anything to go by. Have you read this book? What did you think? Why not leave a comment below, and let me know.