I picked up Checkout 19 purely because of its cover, it reminded me of Cleopatra and Frankenstein, by Coco Mellors, a book I absolutely loved, so I felt instantly drawn to it and I’m glad I did.
The story is essentially a relationship between a young woman and (European) literature. It’s a coming of age through books and a love story to reading. The narrative style switches between first, second and third person and the unnamed narrator recalls her life in long and rambling sentences often reinforcing her feelings with repetition of phrases such as “We did, we did, we did actually” The audiobook is read by the author and is just shy of seven hours and is a real treat. I often find books in this style (not that I can think of another book like this!) quite difficult to read, to capture the right voice in my head, listening to the audiobook elevated the experience.
The observations are sharp, and the writing is witty and political. There is a discussion near the end of the book about accents which was entertaining but also an acute examination of class. My favourite part however, alongside all the mentions of books, stacks, authors, and second-hand bookshops, was the narrator recalling a time her period leaked through onto her stool in a science class. It made me laugh out loud and recall fondly my own experiences of the solidarity and small acts of kindness women extend to each other in our shared and private spaces. Bennett makes astute statements about womanhood and the struggles of our lived experiences, from the small micro aggressions to the bigger and much wider consequences on the lives of women due to the patriarchy, capitalism and the pressures to be young and beautiful forever. Much of this is through the experience of female authors and in a flippant and observational manner, so it doesn’t feel preachy, just relatable.
I have added a copy of this book to my virtual book trolley as I’m looking forward to rereading it. It is full of little gems I know I will want to return to and I’m also really intrigued by the writing style, so I want to experience it in my own voice/head.
Let me know if you have read Checkout 19 by Claire-Louise Bennett or if you’ve ever been drawn to a book simply by its cover “speaking” to you.