Maggie’s Going Nowhere (Rose Hartley, Michael Joseph)
The eponymous character in Rose Hartley’s debut is introduced in the blurb as thoroughly relatable and a counterpart to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag. While the comparison feels true on the surface—both characters not just eschew, but actively renounce any kind of responsibility under the guise of ‘not being boring’—Fleabag presents a more complicated, nuanced view of a character navigating trauma, while our titular character Maggie is just … immature. This bleeds into the first claim—that of relatability—and it is here that I respectfully disagree. There are few women who find themselves as privileged as Maggie and thus few who would be able to wallow in as many problems of their own making. That’s not to say that she’s not compelling, and the narrative choice shows strength here. First person is notoriously hard to do well, but Hartley succeeds in engaging the reader where a third-person narration may have created enough distance for the reader to judge Maggie, rather than empathise with her. There should only be surface satisfaction in the tale of a woman-child landing on her feet through very little work and with very little emotional growth, but the writing is dynamic and the tone is spot-on. Hartley never shies from Maggie’s faults, and while the book is undemanding, Maggie’s story is undeniably enjoyable.
Kate Cuthbert is program manager at Writers Victoria