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Neon in Daylight

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New York City in 2012, the sweltering summer before Hurricane Sandy hits. Kate, a young woman newly arrived from England, is staying in a Manhattan apartment while she tries to figure out her future. She has two unfortunate responsibilities during her time in America: to make regular Skype calls to her miserable boyfriend back home, and to cat-sit an indifferent feline named Joni Mitchell.

The city has other plans for her. In New York's parks and bodegas, its galleries and performance spaces, its bars and clubs crowded with bodies, Kate encounters two strangers who will transform her stay: Bill, a charismatic but embittered writer made famous by the movie version of his only novel; and Inez, his daughter, a recent high school graduate who supplements her Bushwick café salary by enacting the fantasies of men she meets on Craigslist. Unmoored from her old life, Kate falls into an infatuation with both of them.

Set in a heatwave that feels like it will never break, Neon In Daylight marries deep intelligence with captivating characters to offer us a joyful, unflinching exploration of desire, solitude, and the thin line between life and art.

288 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 9, 2018

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Hermione Hoby

4 books56 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 215 reviews
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,606 reviews2,055 followers
August 10, 2017
My review includes the following important caveats: I don't really like books where New York City is a character, where it's revered as something special and magical. That perspective definitely had an impact on how I experienced the book.

There is one really important thing I look for when I'm reading. I want a voice. I want to be pulled in. I want a book to grab me. I'm not very patient about it either, I want to feel that compulsion to turn pages right away. Hoby accomplished that. I tend to gravitate towards a more sparse and straightforward style, I could tell right away that Hoby's prose was a little more decorative than my usual preferences, but there was also something about it. There was something unique and electric and, importantly, it didn't feel like it was trying too hard. So I let myself get sucked in and read this in a pretty short time.

Hoby's prose is definitely the highlight for me. The novel did suffer from a common problem in this kind of book: Bill and Inez are big characters and next to them Kate ends up feeling like a cipher. That, in turn, hurts the overall plot because it's hard to understand why Bill and Inez are so interested in Kate when the reader doesn't find her all that interesting.

Despite this book featuring wandering millennials, a washed-up writer, and New York City as a character of its own (all things I'm tired of reading) I still read and enjoyed this book. I wish she would have pushed her plot farther, dived in deeper with her characters, and created a more visceral setting (her New York didn't hit me as hard as I think it intended to). But I'm very curious to see what Hoby does next.
Profile Image for Chris.
Author 36 books11.3k followers
February 24, 2018
I loved this novel -- the East Village vibe, the eccentricity (and authenticity) of Inez and Kate and Bill, the utterly beautiful writing throughout. This is not just a jaw-dropingly good first novel; it's a jaw-droppingly good novel, period.
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,398 followers
February 19, 2022
To me this book seemed peopled with types more than characters: the sad-sack divorced middle-aged man, the beautiful very young woman who gets away with anything because of her beauty, the somewhat older, more vanilla young woman who idolizes the beautiful woman. Yet, I cannot deny that this book provided an immersive experience of New York City: Even now, months later, I still feel the sweltering, oppressive urban summer when I think of this book. It was good! Looking forward to reading Hoby's next one.
1,248 reviews15 followers
January 29, 2018
Well. It least it was a quick read. It is truly hard to fathom how such a boring, uninteresting book like this ever got published.
The story takes place in NYC between a hot summer and hurricane Sandy not that it mattered and neither event has any baring on the story, but the book is about 3 terribly stereotypical, boring, self absorbed people.
Kate is visiting from England, staying at a friend of her mothers place while the friend is doing her mid life crisis Eat, Pray, Love world trip- the author's words not mine, (I know how cliche). Apparently Kate is taking a break from earning her Ph.d in whatever and taking a break from her needy boring boyfriend. This is quite surprising because Kate is hands down the most boring main character I have read about in years. She is so confused about life, overly self conscious to the point of tragedy, and completely lacking any life experiences or personality.
Inez is a completely screwed up, sexually confused, 19 year old, who works at a coffee shop, has a reputation for offering horrible customer service- again a detail that has no bearing on the story, and is also a part time prescription drug dealer in the park, and has decided to answer Craigslist personal ads and provide kink sexual services- none of which are interesting, erotic, or worth reading about. She spends most waking hours drunk or high and goes barefoot everywhere.
Inez's father-William is a burned out author famous for writing 1 book, that everyone read, and has done nothing since, but be a drunk who blacks outs and passes out, and qualify for being the worst parent of the year, repeatedly.
Guess what happens.
Kate meets Inez.
Kate separately meets William
Neither William nor Inez, say the others name to Kate
Kate's sort of falls for William
Inez finds out
NOTHING!!! The book ends.
The only reason the book gets 2 stars is I like the author's writing, she just needs a story next time that doesn't fit on a cocktail napkin, and is about people who are actually interesting, which I would not think would be that hard considering she lives in New York City, and is from England- wow what a coincidence.
Profile Image for Jill.
1,170 reviews1,647 followers
October 13, 2017
After turning the last page of Neon in Daylight, I realized I had developed a love/hate relationship with this book.

So let’s start with the “love. Hermione Hoby can write and she’s not afraid to take risks with her characters. Although she is not a native New Yorker, she channels the New York vibe and her style is edgy, witty in places, and often compulsively page-turning.

At the core of her novel is a triangle: young Kate, a London transplant, who is spending the summer in her mother’s friend’s apartment trying to figure out who she wants to be when she grows up. Quickly, she meets Inez, a spellbinding girl with an unusual hobby: answering Craigslist ads and fulfilling the fantasies of men who want to be humiliated. She also hooks up with a “one-hit wonder��� middle-aged author named Bill who is weighed down by his glory days…and just happens to be Inez’s father.

For me, the biggest problem was that Kate is the main character, but next to the bigger-than-life Inez and Bill, Kate comes across as a cypher. I couldn’t quite understand what either one of them saw in her. Was she a Pygmalion character that each of them wanted to mold and recreate? Was she a mirror in which their foibles were projected? If either of these scenarios were developed, the book would have been more powerful, but I was left feeling that I needed to take this on faith: Inez and Bill were both mesmerized by Kate (more than the other way around).

I wanted a little more psychological insight into these characters and a little more reason to invest emotionally in them. Having said that, I believe Hermione Hoby is an emerging talent who will keep getting better and I’d love to see where her creative muse takes her.
Profile Image for Erin Glover.
455 reviews34 followers
March 6, 2018
"[I]n the laughably egregious condescension of telling her what it was she did not want to do, he had succeeded only in letting her know that she had no choice but to do it." Once Kate's boyfriend, George, told her this, she found herself hopping the pond from England to Manhattan to housesit a cat named Joni Mitchell. Flush with her dead grandmother's money, and a PhD, she had no plan. Her first thought to take "a shortcut to poise or personality" was to buy a pack of cigarettes. That's when she meets the strikingly exotic and beautiful Inez.

In one of Hoby's many gorgeous character descriptions, Kate knows that "were [she] ever to get to know this girl she'd fail her." Inez's sunglasses set "on a symmetry so perfect that it induced a kind of terror…The girl began to withdraw her sunglasses with a sort of poisonous languor…" Kate buys the same cigarettes as Inez. In what seems like complete serendipity, the two strangers meet in a park where Inez tries to sell Kate Adderall-but a different Kate wanted the drug. Inez thinks it's destiny that another person named Kate was supposed to meet her at the park and that they smoke the same brand of cigarettes. They become friends.

Kate tries to maintain the relationship with George via Skype. But we have a sense that things have gone awry even before she hopped on the plane to JFK. At a proper English dinner party she parlays with the host disagreeing with her and suggesting that "some women might like to be fucked like animals[.]…[T]hey might actually want and enjoy that." George is appalled and won't speak to her. Kate cries. She remembers this night before she cuts off her hair in NY. It seems Kate may have a wild side in there somewhere. But she's clueless. In the same store where she buys the cigarettes, she thinks: "[N]o one, as far as she knew, had managed to manufacture and market a water that would tell you who you were and what you should do and where you should be in the future."

Kate is totally lost. "She was catastrophically unheld, and at the same time terribly conspicuous. That, maybe, was the worst thing about being lost: everyone could see you." And that is what the book is about, at least in part. Kate heads out trying to find herself.

Meanwhile, Inez is experimenting with fulfilling men's sexual fantasies that she meets on Craigslist, as long as they don't involve sex. "She felt a middle-finger raising kind of love for the idea of them all-God bless them all and fuck them all-the perverts and the loners and the weirdos." She also experiments with her own sexuality. She does a lot of drugs, runs around the city barefoot, and hangs out on rooftops. She has a ton of rage. "[F]eel-good always filled her with hate. Here's one thing her dad had taught her: walk out. When you think it's bullshit, just leave." She regularly turns people away at the coffee shop where she works and it's become a thing on Yelp. She refuses to sell one guy a cookie because he's too fat. When she's hungry, she's hungry "with something like fury". No wonder she has no plan for college or for doing anything at all. And she's totally infatuated with Kate, in part because she went to college and Inez thinks she's smarter than all her other friends who begin to bore her. Inez seems lost, too.

Then there's Bill. He became famous at 24 when his book was published in 1988. (So that makes him around late 40's or early 50's in the book.) And rich. He's a bitter divorcé and hopeless womanizer. He flirts with Kate at an art exhibit and she recognizes him. They go out for wine. Kate says, "I don't know what I'm doing. I've sort of lost the ability to think or write." Bill says, "Tell me about it." Then later, trying to figure out what Kate wants, Bill says, "I wrote a book people gave a shit about for whatever reason and then it was a movie and the movie star died. That's it, you know? There's nothing else. I've done nothing else. And people don't change." Apparently, Bill is a little lost, too. They have several encounters. Whether Kate wants him or likes him or is just present becomes an interesting question.

Hoby's writing sucked me in immediately. Her writing transported me. I re-read paragraphs multiple times, they were that beautiful. The story was interesting and current. But I had to re-read the book, skim it actually, to glean the themes. I immediately loved the book, but what was it about? Newness is a big theme. Kate tries on many personas. She's constantly changing, just like New York, just how neon has new as the root of the word. Caution: the ending may leave you unsatisfied if you like things all wrapped up. Bill doesn't change. Inez doesn't seem to change. In fact, she wants something Kate has, and I think that's the ability to change, to be new.

The overall tone of the novel is somewhat maudlin. No one knows what they want to be when they grow up. But do any of us really know? Maybe it's best to be like Kate and keep trying on new skins, hop on a plane and jump across the pond, see what life is like somewhere else. It doesn't matter if you haven't been to college (like Inez), if you've already been successful (like Bill), or if you have a PhD and haven't used it (like Kate)-just try new things. Keep trying until you find your tribe. The consonance, the synchronicity, the rhythms, the algorithms of things will continue to move until you wind up where you're supposed to be. And you'll know you're in the right place if you're happy with where you are right before a big storm.

I will look for more writing by Hoby. By the way, the jacket cover for this novel does not do it justice at all. This was one of my favorite reads for 2018 so far. I know it's early March but I've read a dozen or so. Being a favorite counts.
Profile Image for Janelle Janson.
709 reviews439 followers
January 8, 2018
NEON DAYLIGHT by Hermione Hoby - Thank you so much to Catapult for providing my free copy—all opinions are my own.

“He pocketed the note and kept it, as a way of honoring unrequited, late-adolescent love. Which she’d look back on in twenty years’ time, most likely, with humor and affection. It’s never love, as soon as you feel the next love. Because isn’t that a prerequisite of the condition? That you tell yourself everything that came before wasn’t really it.”

Kate moved from England to find herself. She left her boyfriend, George, and her unfinished PhD behind in order to apartment sit and cat sit in her mother’s best friend’s vacant New York City apartment.

Kate starts off naive, lost, and a bit paranoid. Throughout the story she transforms both physically and mentally into a much different person. She meets some larger than life characters: Bill, a writer with a one hit wonder novel, and Inez, a crazy, dynamic, in-your-face character.

I love when the setting plays a big character in the book, especially a place with so much personality like New York City—it’s a huge part of this story. It took me about 70 pages to get into this book. At first I was thinking “what am I reading” but as the characters crossed paths, I became more and more invested.

I can’t stress enough that this book may not be for everyone but I loved it! Even though I didn’t particularly love Kate, Bill, or Inez, I found the story well-written and I found them all interesting in their own way. Hoby definitely has a way with words—by the end I fell in love with her writing style and found myself flipping through the pages out of desperate curiosity.

All-in-all if you enjoy a book that’s light on plot but very character driven with an artsy New York vibe then this is for you!

For all of my reviews, please visit my blog at https://shereadswithcats.com
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
Author 57 books569 followers
February 24, 2018
I wish that young writers would not write books in which one of the main characters is a writer. I’m also sick of books featuring relationships between young women and older successful male writers. STOP IT! So yeah, this had some moments but it lacked what I want and need in my fiction. I found it hard to care about any of the characters and was pretty disengaged from beginning to end.
Profile Image for Doug.
1,994 reviews706 followers
January 30, 2018
2.5, rounded up. For a first novel this is largely successful in what it tried to do - but then, it doesn't really attempt much other than to be a sort of hip, flippant update on the 'Bright Light, Big City'/'Sex & the City' vibe. The characters are all rather superficial and you have to take the author's word on them being intellectual, since none of them say anything very profound. It's the kind of breezy 'beach read' that college girls will adore, but anyone with a little life experience will roll their eyes at, more than identify with anything within. That said, it was a quick, fun read, and does a good job of evoking NYC circa 2012 (right before Hurricane Sandy hits), so not a total waste.
Profile Image for Sarah.
25 reviews25 followers
August 28, 2017
When I finished this book I looked up hermione hoby to see if maybe she was a poet — the prose is so gorgeous I couldn't help but wonder.
Profile Image for Brittany | thebookishfiiasco.
125 reviews6 followers
January 25, 2018
‘She felt weird today and she did not know why. And not knowing was making her feel insane, twitchy. It was something, Inez thought, about having made Kate tea. Because she kept thinking about it—that tea with the moronic bear on the box, lolling in its pajamas and frilly nightcap. Now she realized that she had never made someone a cup of tea before this moment. That was just a plain fact and it seemed significant. The thing was, it had made her feel much older, suddenly, to do this for Kate, just the two of them, alone in the kitchen, not saying much.’

Wow, what a tangled triangle we weave, am I right? Right from the start, I have to say, this was written in such an interesting and intriguing way. The way you get to know the characters mirrors the way the characters get to know one another. They all encompass such deep, despaired feelings about their past and present, and in their own ways, are navigating how to move forward with their lives, while evaluating who they want to be.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience of getting to know each character, and witnessing how they slowly weaves together. A great way to kick off the first month of the new year of reading!

Profile Image for Kendall.
130 reviews6 followers
February 3, 2018
This book was really bad for me. The worst book I have read in a long time. Nothing happened. I felt nothing for the characters. The synopsis was so promising— a sweltering summer in New York, an interesting premise where a girl is friends with a daughter and dates the dad but not everyone knows until the end. The ending was awful. The dialogue was painful. Everything was a cliche— coming to NYC to find yourself, the sketch of each character, working in a coffee shop but supporting yourself by responding to CL ads.

Everyone was dripping with privilege.

I am actively mad at Ann Patchett after reading this book. It was her review that made me decide to read this book. She said the book was spellbinding. It was not.
Profile Image for Michelle Hart.
Author 2 books130 followers
December 30, 2017

so much squandered potential. setting your novel in manhattan should not/does not grant the narrative automatic significance. there's no plot, no sympathetic characters, no strong sense of place beyond the author knowing the names of some city streets. dialogue is horrendous. worst of all, the novel just doesn't SAY anything; aimlessness seems to be its plot and point. neon in daylight exemplifies the worst impulses of young writers.
Profile Image for Siena Mirabella.
62 reviews6,680 followers
September 15, 2018
2 & a half stars i think. i mean i don’t hate it but like... what? this book was kind of unfulfilled chaos, nice prose but plot & characters were lacking
Profile Image for Kathleen Flynn.
Author 1 book397 followers
April 19, 2019
I was aware of this novel from a distance, as one that received many rapturous reviews when it came out early last year and then seemed to vanish, to sink beneath the waves of all the other books coming out every day. But I was not curious enough to read it until I read a recent interview with the author in which she said, among other things:

"I fucking hate Jane Austen. But maybe that’s more the fault of simpering BBC dramas than Jane Austen herself, whom I haven’t read since I was like, fourteen."

"Hating Jane Austen" was mentioned in the headline. Total clickbait! And it worked; I read the article, curious to learn more about this person who hated Jane Austen. Not that one can't; it would be a very boring world if we were all exactly alike. But I was curious about why. It should go without saying that the answer was inadequate, and the statement seemed made chiefly to shock.

I suppose, though I had not thought of this way until just now, that I read the book to find a better answer of why the author hated Jane Austen, or rather her imagined idea of Jane Austen as gleaned from adaptations of her work.

Neon in Daylight tells the story of a recent summer in New York (2012, to be exact) with a close third-person (basically free indirect discourse, in fact, a technique first mastered by Jane Austen) look at three characters: visiting Englishwoman in her mid-20s, a disaffected, amazingly beautiful 19-year-old woman, and her father, a mildly famous one-book novelist now drifting and drinking his way through late middle age. By random chance, the Englishwoman meets the daughter and they become friends. By another random chance, she meets the father and they become lovers. It is only later that she realizes these two people (who also seem to almost be the only people she ever talks to in her entire summer in New York) are related. Although coincidence certainly has its place in fiction, this seemed a bit of a stretch.

I did not care for the writing on the sentence level; to my taste it was fussy and over-adjectived, but it did succeed in subly creating a sense of the different ways these three people saw the world, which is a hard thing to do well.

Stuff happens in this novel as the characters drift through their carefully described surroundings, but none of it seems to have any weight. No one seems to really want anything, or to worry very much about anything. They are filled with ennui, which is a problem I guess, but they hardly seem to notice. They flirt with disaster, but nothing really bad ever happens. I can think of other books like this where this kind of thing works. But Neon in Daylight didn't quite do it, at least for me.
Profile Image for Elaine - Small Farm Big Life.
311 reviews80 followers
January 7, 2018
Neon in Daylight starts right into the story from the very beginning. The problem is I have no idea what that story was supposed to be. I restarted this book twice and checked to make sure I wasn't missing the beginning on my kindle.

The story isn't engaging. I didn't feel drawn to any of the characters. This is a very rare time that I didn't finish this book. There were too many other good books waiting for me on my nightstand.

Overall, Neon in Daylight was highly disappointing.
Profile Image for lucky little cat.
546 reviews104 followers
January 19, 2018
A New York version of Mrs. Dalloway, this novel focuses on twenty-something-year-old Kate. A recently arrived Londoner, Kate is both stunned by and ravenously curious about city life among artists and students. Not a sight or sound is wasted on her. The novel catches her just as she's turning into an experienced adult, complete with choices to make about . Lyrical.
Profile Image for Lizzy McGovern.
211 reviews6 followers
April 1, 2018
2.5 because I did finish it and for some reason hoped for closure or any feeling by the end but alas all I feel is bored. Story is full of ennui in NYC; not really original yet that kind of thing is usually my jam but it was too self indulgent and pretentious. No one changes and it all seems pointless which is maybe the “point”.
Profile Image for Forsyth Harmon.
Author 4 books49 followers
October 9, 2017
This book glows with all the gorgeousness, gruesomeness and humor that it is to be human.
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,210 reviews
April 26, 2019
So I really liked this one and was quite surprised to scroll through the other reviews and see such a mixed bag. Hoby is smart and quick and has some great turns of phrase. Her characters are a little stereo-typed: young Kate is mousy, but intellectual; Inez is the wildcat, but with deeper values; and Bill is the walking mid-life crisis. BUT, their interactions are real and their desires valid and their own inability to understand their own interactions and desires even yet more real.

I thought the love-triangle aspect unnecessary. There are many moments in which Kate/Bill/Inez could have or should have discovered the other. It seemed odd that that didn't and not particularly revelatory when Kate figured it out or at the suicide party when everything came to a head. I did not think that the tension Hoby tried to create was real and felt that a surprise moment between the three would have been more authentic.

The real gem of this book were the human observations that Hoby managed to throw in. The book is relatively short and filled with enough action (for a character piece) to move along quickly, but she has quips that make the reader stop and pause throughout. Some of my favorites were:

"Hating things: it tended to tell you who you were. Loving things rarely did."

"He ran hot water, squeezed the detergent bottle into a plangent belch, and thought, as it ejaculated bright green soap, Here I am again, inhabiting the refuge of quotidian hurt that is the kitchen sink. Every martyr's best-loved activity, doing the dishes."

"they weren't drinking to get drunk. They they had, instead, agreed upon a mutual seduction. They were drinking to the certainty of fucking."

"What kind of feminism doesn't allow for male desire?...Recently she'd registered that her sexual fantasies were all about being desired, and she felt bad abut this. It seemed fucked--unfeministic."

Overall it was not fantastic, but quite solidly good with a raw look at sexuality and attraction and the ways we figure out what we want from other people.
Profile Image for Reed.
85 reviews17 followers
November 20, 2018
I generally enjoy reading about “nothing.”

Which is to say I generally enjoy character driven contemporary fiction that is all about people hanging out, doing a whole lot of mundane shit, and letting their relationships spin out and grow from the ‘every day.’

The caveat with that is that they have to be good characters to begin with. The progression of relationships have to make sense. If you’re going to write a character driven story then let the characters drive the story.

Neon in Daylight has the problem of shoddily conceived characters and an author who doesn’t know what to do with them.

Inez and Kate’s undeniable tension is never consummated, it never goes anywhere. We get all these strange hints about Inez being queer, Kate’s fascination with her, and even, sure, I’ll buy the idea of if Kate’s fucking Inez and Bill there’ll be drama (even if it doesn’t interest me). So why don’t they? Hell, even Inez comments on how odd it is that Kate doesn’t make a move on her. Give me queer women, please.

Then there’s the matter of Bill who is wholly uninteresting. There’s supposed to be some sort of draw in this book because it’s a character drama about terrible people, but who REALLY wants to read a novel about a gross, older, has-been male author fucking women who are his young daughter’s peers? In 2018?

This tired novel is couched in some really beautiful prose and meditations on New York that feel too on the nose on occasion (Inez — who literally makes all kinds of disparaging comments about the homeless people in the park who are literally the victims of gentrification she’s denouncing — making comments about gentrification when really her white dad living in Bushwick is gentrification in itself; Hermonie Hoby knows buzzwords but not their actual meaning.) So it’s like a Joan Didion essay fucked a Woody Allen film and Neon in Daylight is what it shat out.
Profile Image for Laurie Naranjo.
16 reviews4 followers
February 1, 2018
"...she's said "Absolutely" into the screen like she knew, like yeah, she totally knew. As though she were the kind of person who was up for it and down for it. The kind of person who wouldn't be troubled, for instance, over how those two semantically opposed phrases could have come to mean, in essence, the exact same thing."

I'd actually give this 4.25 stars.

Ann Patchett said this book had her "spellbound" and that sentiment is spot on. I was captivated by the characters. So interested in Kate, and how I always felt like she was holding back and that interested me. I admired her restraint and unwitting confidence. I loved how Inez DNGAF and was so intrigued by her youthful courage and resistance to doing what society expected. Bill just wanted to get his groove back. The way the story was so clearly building to a head unfolded in a way that was unexpected, horrific and satisfying. The ending is ambiguous, which usually drives me nuts, but in this instance the story didn't demand closure.
Profile Image for Lesley.
372 reviews6 followers
October 5, 2018
I feel like I've read some variation of this book a thousand times already. A lot of the ~poignant observations of everyday life in the big city~ just came off as bald attempts to use another set of six-dollar words. True story: my brother lost a spelling bee in one of its final rounds on the word "efflorescence", and now I can say I've actually seen it in print for the first time in my life. Do less.
Profile Image for Lauren.
620 reviews78 followers
May 16, 2018
This is an odd book to review, because it did some things so very well, and other things poorly.

Neon in Daylight, (a novel by a first-time author that releases next week) takes place in NYC in the Summer and Fall of 2012. It's told through the rotating perspective of three characters-- two young women and a middle-aged man.

Hermione Hoby writes beautifully. I found her descriptions of the mundane delightful. I laughed when I realized she had moved me with a character's description of a bathroom in a strip club. There's clearly a lot of talent here. She also captured the New York summertime scarily well.

After setting up three reasonably interesting characters, this novel didn't really take off for me. The connections between each pairing weren't believable. If it's possible for characters in a novel to lack chemistry, this would be the example I would give.

Overall, this didn't work for me but I so enjoyed the writing style that I'll absolutely read what she puts out next.
2 reviews
January 24, 2018
Almost Amazing

This story has a lot going for it. I don't want to spoil any plot points because going into it not knowing what I was getting into made me enjoy it more... Or at least I assume so. Hoby's writing is fantastic, and kept me reading even when the plot came close to becoming boring (which it seldom did). I really enjoyed the use of multiple perspectives, and the exploration of city life. There are some themes here that have been mishandled by other writers that are explored with maturity here, and I appreciate that. I would say the only real flaw with this book is that it just didn't wow me the way some other great stories have. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.
Profile Image for Michelle.
460 reviews527 followers
June 7, 2018
I think the writing was great, Hoby is a descriptive and thoughtful writer and I connected with a lot of the thought and insights she had about NYC as a place. That being said, I wanted so much more from the characters. They all felt like caricatures of people and I just wanted more background on them. I liked the way she wove the three stories together, but it felt like the moment when they realize their connection to one another was just breezed over. And I couldn’t quite fully understand how Kate and Inez would be friends in the first place. Overall, the story was compelling and the writing was great but the characters were just a bit lackluster for me.
Profile Image for Anthony Crupi.
120 reviews7 followers
January 23, 2018
Four stars for Hoby's prose style, which in its zeppelin-mooring-against-a-purple-sky lushness and sentiment is reminiscent of Chabon's debut, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Zero stars for characters who are forever walking around Manhattan *barefoot*. No tortured metaphor or windy trope is worth having to stave off so many waves of nausea.
Profile Image for emma.
53 reviews39 followers
March 5, 2018
I think I’d enjoy this book more if it had less of a GIRLS vibe – while I enjoyed how the book captured summer in alphabet city, I wished that it had more depth and complexity to the story. I had trouble embracing Kate as a main character, and didn’t love the “take drugs to find yourself” undercurrent to the novel.
Profile Image for Amanda.
21 reviews4 followers
December 25, 2017
This book and its writing is stunning. I didn't think there was anything that could make me miss the magic of NYC summers more than I already do, and yet this did just that.
Profile Image for Tripfiction.
1,610 reviews197 followers
February 26, 2018
Novel for narcotic times in NEW YORK CITY

The opening to this novel packs a punch and is probably one of the best and sharpest openers to a book I have read.

Kate is British, studying in England but has reached a bit of an impasse in her life and in her relationship with boyfriend George. She has been given the opportunity to cat sit in an apartment in New York (where she is looking after the feline Joni Mitchell) and happily descends on the city to ponder her future. A chance encounter in a park with Inez heralds a new way of looking at life.

There is Bill Marrero, an older writer, whom Kate meets at a gallery showing pornographic portraits of body parts, graphic and close up. And that is the nub of the novel, everything is bigger, ruder, more intense and psychedelic in this city. Beware those who can’t keep up.

Inez, although wealthy in her own right, trots across the city without any footwear and earns extra income by acting out the sexual fetishes of male clients, whether dominatrix in high heeled couture shoes or finding herself locked in a cupboard for someone else’s odd and cheesy gratification.

Each chapter is devoted to one of the characters and as the novel unfolds it becomes clearer how the path of each character will cross and connect.

There are a lot of drugs floating around the book, from Kate swallowing a paper bomb which takes her body several days to process, to Adderall and Advil (somehow British Anadin doesn’t have the same chutzpah) and Xanax (how often do I read American books where the characters knock back this mild tranquilliser?). This drugged up state helps make sense of the title, that neon (as observed by Bill) is a flickering and bright metaphor for the city that never sleeps. Everything is permanently wired and fragile and although this drug induced freneticism adds atmosphere and edginess, it also has the effect of disconnecting the reader. Imagine being the only sober person in a room when everyone else is under a chemical influence… you get the idea. A novel for narcotic times in New York.

The promising writing at the beginning reappears in flurries, the author is a very good writer, but becomes too reliant on the stock, florid “creative writing” style to maintain a buoyancy to the story. For example, what to make of “..she’d duly walked the strip of an old elevated railway spur that had been willed into verdancy“?

Having said that, the novel really conjures up the sometimes venal feel of the city, set in the crushing heat of Summer 2012. Images drawn of the crazy side of the Big Apple are colourful and on point… from The Bowery, to Tompkins Square Park and beyond, to the weird and wonderful people parade through the pages of this book. I look forward to her next novel, as her first outing is promising.
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