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The Girl on the Page

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Two women, two great betrayals, one path to redemption. A punchy, powerful and page-turning novel about the redemptive power of great literature, from industry insider, John Purcell.

Amy Winston is a hard-drinking, bed-hopping, hot-shot young book editor on a downward spiral. Having made her name and fortune by turning an average thriller writer into a Lee Child, Amy is given the unenviable task of steering literary great Helen Owen back to publication.

When Amy knocks on the door of their beautiful townhouse in north-west London, Helen and her husband, the novelist Malcolm Taylor, are conducting a silent war of attrition. The townhouse was paid for with the enormous seven-figure advance Helen was given for the novel she wrote to end fifty years of making ends meet on critical acclaim alone. The novel Malcolm thinks unworthy of her. The novel Helen has yet to deliver. The novel Amy has come to collect.

Amy has never faced a challenge like this one. Helen and Malcolm are brilliant, complicated writers who unsettle Amy into asking questions of herself - questions about what she values, her principles, whether she has integrity, whether she is authentic. Before she knows it, answering these questions becomes a matter of life or death.

From ultimate book industry insider, John Purcell, comes a literary page-turner, a ferocious and fast-paced novel that cuts to the core of what it means to balance ambition and integrity, and the redemptive power of great literature.

352 pages, ebook

First published September 24, 2018

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About the author

John Purcell

2 books118 followers
John Purcell is the author of five novels, three published under a pseudonym. His most recent novels The Girl on the Page and The Lessons are published by Fourth Estate.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 236 reviews
Profile Image for Mandy White (mandylovestoread).
2,143 reviews583 followers
September 18, 2018
The Girl on the Page by John Purcell is a behind the scenes look at the world of book publishing. As an avid reader I was looking forward to reading this. I certainly got more than I bargained for and I just loved it all!!

Amy Winston is a young, hotshot editor on her way to ruin. She sleeps around, drinks too much and says it like she sees it. She doesn't have to work but she's loves what she does. In order to save her job she is sent to help literary great Helen Owen with her next book. Both women need to deliver to save themselves. In the backstabbing world of publishing they do what they must to survive.

There is a lot of drama, sex, emotions and writers in this book. If you love to read you will love this book.

Thanks to Harper Collins Publishing Australia for my advanced copy of this book to read. All opinions are my own and are in no way biased
October 19, 2018
This is a really hard book to review - I am so torn. Some parts were .... well, no words really ... that bad. Then other parts were just brilliant. Presented as a window into the world of publishing (a world I would not want to enter by the way, if this is anything to go by) I think this book suffers a real sense of a lack of identity.

I will confess that I did not fully appreciate this book as it attempted to tick too many boxes for me, in too short a space. In one chapter there might be drama filled angst, another in your face erotica, skip to the next chapter that was filled with horrific sadness, then blend in another on a strong literary stance regarding literature in today’s modern world. Is it any wonder I was confused as it really was quite disconcerting.

It’s rather sad as this book held much potential but got lost in too many threads. Many a reader would appreciate some sort of indication, for example, for the sections that can really only be described as soft porn. Maybe it could have better focused more on character analysis but that was lost in trashy encounters that really did not contribute a great deal to the overall plot. A stronger focus on the characters of Helen and Malcolm, representative of this clash of what constitutes good literature, would have been amazing. For herein lay its strength.

‘What good is fiction if it doesn’t allow you to practise at living life?’

The epilogue was incredible! Here, finally, at last I could see what lay at the root for the motivation for this book (for me). Indeed what is literature and how do we know if it’s any good? Is it pure and meaningful or is it there to sell books? Many a book and author comes into the spotlight (‘Poisonwood Bible, Atonement and The Life of Pi. They sell millions of copies and get mistaken for literature.’) as lying just beneath the surface is a truly insightful proclamation on what makes a good read!

‘There’s uphill reading and downhill reading. As you can imagine, uphill reading requires more effort. Downhill, less so. Readers will do both in their reading lives.’

The Girl on the Page will certainly take you on an undulating ride, with you never knowing what the next page will bring - sex and scandal! Sadness and shock! Release and redemption! This is a book that is multi faceted in every way and so very complex, but at its core lies a brilliantly eloquent portrayal of great literature versus commercial page turners. I will leave the verdict up to you.

“Great writing is rare. With so little time on this planet, shouldn’t we spend at least some of that time getting acquainted with the writers most often acknowledged as exceptional?”

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release
Profile Image for Jenny.
270 reviews
January 10, 2019
Mixed thoughts about this one. Really interesting perspectives about what is, or isn’t literature, but the main character, Amy, was completely ridiculous. Amy, is an “ideal woman” obviously written by a man. A Pretty, clever, under 30 nymphomaniac.

A page turner but sometimes I found myself thinking, “You’re kidding. Put this down now. It is trash.”

I finished but can’t say I’d recommend it.
Profile Image for Emmy9394.
65 reviews29 followers
June 4, 2018
Holy hell. I just finished and I’m reeling a little; I didn’t want it to be over yet. This is a love letter to books, to writers, to publishers. It is so very obviously written by someone who loves books and I appreciated that SO MUCH. Amy is a difficult character, and I will admit that I struggled with her at first, possibly because I see a little too much of myself in her destructive actions. Malcolm and Helen, a literary couple, are incredible characters and their stories were wonderful to watch. Mr Purcell, I loved it and I can’t wait to reread it. Definitely one of my top three of 2018.
Profile Image for Belinda.
488 reviews12 followers
November 29, 2018
Contains one of the most obviously-written-by-a-man female characters I've read in a while and a woman taking her own life in an incredibly unlikely way. Nope.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
March 18, 2019

**3.5 stars**

The Girl on the Page by John Purcell. (2018).

Amy is a hard-drinking, bed-hopping, hot-shot young book editor who has made her fortune turning an average thriller writer into a Lee Child. Her new task is to collect a bestseller from literary giant Helen. Helen was given a seven figure advance and has yet to deliver the novel. Her husband Malcolm, also a novelist, thinks she is a sell-out. This is Amy's biggest challenge yet as both Helen and Malcolm are brilliant but also complicated and are unsettling Amy with their questions and lives.

I have mixed feelings about this book. For me it started off quite intriguing and felt different to the average novel. Then about the halfway mark, I just slowly started losing interest. I can't put my finger on anything in particular, I just wasn't really engaging with the story anymore. I was still interested enough to finish the book and it wasn't bad or anything like that. Overall I didn't mind it but for me it wasn't anything special.
There is a fair amount of sex described throughout the book (one of the main characters Amy seemed to thrive on alcohol and sex) so if you don't like reading scenes like that, consider yourself warned haha. There is also suicide in this book so if that is a trigger for you, you may want to avoid. I really liked the pages at the end which had book recommendations from various characters in the book, that was a great finishing touch.
Profile Image for Ruth.
233 reviews21 followers
October 5, 2018
I read a glowing review in the Booktopia email and downloaded The Girl on the Page. I returned to check I had in fact purchased the right book as the reviews didn't seem to correlate with what I was reading. I then noticed that Purcell the author is also Director of Books at Booktopia and therein lies the conflict of interest and the review was always going to be biased. The book had so much unrealised potential with Purcell somehow managing to turn it into a soft porn novel mixed with decent dialogue and story. I wasn't sure if that was the whole point of the novel - the discussion about what makes "great literature" versus what we would view as "low brow literature" was the crux of the novel, but regardless, it was tedious wading through banal and poorly written erotic scenes that didn't add anything to the book. Fortunately the story line relating to Helen and Malcolm et al was worth reading and I thoroughly enjoyed the insight into the publishing industry and the Booker Prize.
Profile Image for Sarah Mcduling.
1 review3 followers
October 4, 2018
This is an incredibly difficult review to write. No kidding, I’ve been attempting to review The Girl on the Page for literally months. I must have started this review a dozen times only to delete every word and start all over again. I have procrastinated like crazy because a) I know the author, which makes things a little bit awkward and b) I work with the author which makes things extremely awkward and c) the author happens to be my boss, which means PRESSURE!

But before you dismiss every word I have to say as biased flattery motivated by the need to stay gainfully employed, consider this:

There no real need for me to write this review. Many of my coworkers have already gone bravely into the breach. When it comes to staff reviews, Booktopia has this book covered. If I didn’t really want to review The Girl on the Page, I could have avoided the task quite easily! Only I don’t want to avoid the task because the truth is … this book is really quite extraordinary. I love it and I want to tell everyone about it!

The Girl on the Page gave me a lot of intense thoughts and feelings. You’ll have to bear with me as I relive the trauma. Upon finishing this book (something I did very late one night, after making the monumentally stupid mistake of starting it at 9:30pm) I was filled with a burning desire to punch the author in the face. To be honest, I still sort of want to punch the author in the face. This book GUTTED me. It left me feeling betrayed, wounded, furious, bereft and questioning every book I’ve ever read in the past and every decision I’ve ever made. Even worse, it left me feeling utterly confused as to what on earth I was supposed to read next?

The answer to that last question turned out to be … nothing. At least not for a while. The Girl on the Page left me with such a severe book hangover, I didn’t read anything else for weeks afterwards.

Now this all sounds very negative so let me be clear. This is a fantastic book. Yes, it broke me. But it also made me laugh. It’s full of wry humour and a wicked sort of playfulness. There are lots of fun in-jokes for people familiar with the publishing industry (the title itself is an in-joke – a cute ‘tip of the hat’ to all the many bestselling books out there with “Girl” in the title). This is a book that offers a sneak peek behind the curtains – a backstage pass for people curious about the ins and outs of the book world.

And yet it’s so much more than that!

The story follows three central characters. Amy is a wildly successful young editor who has used her considerable talent to turn a rather bland thriller writer into an international bestseller. Amy is young and beautiful and smart and charming. She is also deeply miserable, an obsessive workaholic mired in a pit of self-loathing and doing everything she can to avoid being alone with her own thoughts. Amy is awesome at everything she does. And so, naturally, when she throws herself into a destructive downward spiral she falls very fast and very hard.

Oh Amy! Such a dynamic character, so charismatic and so deeply sympathetic. She crawled right under my skin – I loved her from the moment she showed up on the first page, so bold and brash, brilliant and broken.

And then we have Malcolm and Helen, a married couple in their seventies who both happen to be highly respected and award-winning authors – literary giants who have devoted their lives to their craft above all else. I love Malcolm and Helen. I wish so much that I could read all of their books. It is a real source of pain and frustration to me that those books don’t actually exist, damn it!

When Amy enters Helen and Malcolm’s sphere, what follows is a mighty collision – an earth shattering clash between generations, ideologies and values. None of them will ever be the same again … and neither will the reader.

This is a book about books (the best kind of book!) but it’s also a book about self-worth and integrity versus ambition and selling out. It’s about old versus new, the legacy of art versus the value of entertainment. It asks important questions like, “What is the true cost of success?” and “How do we define art?” and most intriguingly, “What matters most in life?”

The Girl on the Page offers some deeply thought-provoking answers to these questions, and it does so while gleefully ripping out your heart and stomping on it. Repeatedly.

On one level, The Girl on the Page is a fast-paced and addictive pageturner full of scandal and sex, smart quips and shock twists. But this is a book that operates on more than just one level. It also happens to be an eloquent ode to literature and a brilliant satire of the publishing industry. It’s incredibly funny and wonderfully clever, sharp as steel and dark as hell, it is also – perhaps more than anything else – a novel full of heart. Every page throbs with a fierce love of literature, as well as a deep respect for the art of writing.

I love The Girl on the Page. One day, hopefully soon, I might even feel mentally and emotionally strong enough to read it all over again!

Profile Image for Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum.
1,006 reviews110 followers
November 7, 2018
This book has everything: a setting in the publishing industry, ageing and eccentric authors, bestselling authors, publishing personalities, editing and proofreading, manuscripts aplenty, sex, ambition, literary debate and tragedy. The Girl On The Page by John Purcell has been the most surprising read for me so far this year and I absolutely loved it!

Australian author John Purcell is currently the Director of Books at Booktopia and before that he ran a secondhand bookshop in Sydney for 10 years, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he has such a firm grip on what it's like to work in the book industry. I've heard that John's portrayal of the industry is too sexy to bear any resemblance to the Australian publishing industry. I'll never know for sure, but this definitely kept me enthralled from start to finish.

The references to real authors and actors in the story enhanced my enjoyment and gave the novel a real contemporary feel. The title is also quite playful and possibly a stab at all the books with 'girl' in the title.

Punchy, sexy, witty, entertaining and containing intelligent debate on literature versus bestselling fiction, I'm recommending The Girl On The Page by John Purcell far and wide.

* Copy courtesy of Harper Collins *
Profile Image for Amber.
480 reviews87 followers
December 29, 2018
2.5 stars, while I appreciate this was an insight into the publishing world , the name dropping of authors got a bit too much . There is no way that the main character could behave in the way she did and still keep her job no matter how ‘ good looking ‘ we are constantly told she is . This book did nothing for me .
Profile Image for Francene Carroll.
Author 13 books30 followers
January 22, 2019

The last man standing in this book is Malcolm Taylor an old white guy who delivers a sermon on literature and its role in life after driving his brilliant wife to suicide with his inexcusable behavior (and who didn't even bother to attend his own son's funeral after he also committed suicide). He delivers his words of wisdom on a panel at the Sydney Writer's Festival with a woman and a black man who he attempts to cure of his illusions that he could ever write more than commercial fiction for the masses.

Malcolm Taylor is also a Man Booker prize winner whose celebrated novel is a joke on the literary establishment and the reading public who are too stupid to get it's real meaning. He is a truly terrible person, yet at the end he is off gallivanting around the globe with the most stunningly beautiful young woman anyone has ever laid eyes on in the history of the world (because if a woman isn't stunningly beautiful she has no right to exist). Oh, and she also happens to be an obscenely wealthy nymphomaniac who engages in graphic meaningless sex with Liam, the black-hack writer and anyone else she can get her hands on. The fact that Malcolm is doing the literary scene to promote his dead wife's writing and his memoir about her, after breaking her heart and driving her to stab herself to death, makes it even more repulsive and ridiculous.

So the brilliant woman is violently dispatched and the black writer is dismissed, and only the old white guy remains to uphold the standards of 'literature' along with the stunning nympho to look after him. His equally ancient white male agent and friend also lives on to celebrate Malcolm's success (all in the memory of his tragic dead wife of course). You don't have to be a psychoanalyst to read between the lines with this book. Appalling stuff.
Profile Image for ellie ✨.
404 reviews
September 22, 2018
[advance copy provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest review]

Let me get this out of the way: I didn't not like this. The writing style was very accessible, and the plot moved quickly enough to keep me entertained. Nevertheless, I felt that the book was a bit unfocused - like it wasn't quite sure what story it was trying to tell. Trying to appeal to too many audiences.

The story focuses on three central characters. Amy, who is the only character we have the honour of receiving in first person, is a kind-of messy, kind-of lovely, book editor who is obsessed with writing the next bestseller. She is the best at her job. She finds herself, however, caught up in editing the legendary Helen Owen's new book, which her publishing firm has payed millions for. We don't know why. So anyway, Helen, our second character, is an elderly author who is widely respected by her literary peers (that's a word that pops up a lot in this book - literary - I'll come back to that). Her husband, Malcolm (our third character), is also a novelist. Their son, Daniel, is also??? somehow a main character. Basically, Amy finds herself living in Helen and Malcolm's granny flat while she works on editing Helen's new "corporate sellout" book. That's the entire plot, essentially.

But the story thrives on relying that its reader loves books. Luckily, I love books. The author obviously does too, and this entire novel is a homage to a lifetime spent reading, and learning, and collecting words. Purcell knows the book industry, and he taps into this so perfectly that it gives the story life. Much of the story is spend with the characters warring over the quality vs quantity of books, operating under the assumption that bestselling novels have no literary quality (ok...). The concept of literature and what constitutes it is argued throughout the book, which was, to be honest, gets kind of dull towards the end. The story is carried by its characters. I love Amy. I tolerated most of the other characters. I hated the rest. Amy was enough to keep me reading though, and I'm truly glad I did finish this book.

Additionally, I had trouble understanding the book. Is it a drama? A tragedy A romance? An erotica? You can't please everyone, sorry. I found it very disconcerting to skip from a long chapter reflecting on Malcolm's literary inadequacy to a fairly explicit Amy-in-the-sack scene. I guess that''s just me though. The pacing kind of confused me as well; relationships between the main characters seemed to spontaneously blossom. It's difficult to know whether these are deliberate choices that went straight over my head (to be honest, its likely), or whether the author just had so much to say that it flowed disjointedly and confused.

I also didn't find it to be quite the page-turner I'd been promised. I was never compelled to keep reading, I don't think there's enough substance for that. But, it is a very thoughtful, accessible book; maybe heartbreaking depending on which characters you most relate to. I just felt like I didn't get it. I probably won't be re-reading it to try to, though.

PS; I can't believe this is the second book I've read in a row that featured the real Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, as an actual character.
Profile Image for Suz.
1,159 reviews604 followers
September 14, 2021
This was unusual. Written by an Aussie who has been able to quit his day job in publishing; he must be doing something right!

Amy is a young go get em' editor who has the knack of transforming hum drum writing into the best selling stuff imaginable, think Lee Child. But her life is a mess. She drinks too much, sleeps with everyone, and is out of control in all aspects of her life.

She is tasked with bringing back the goods with Helen, an older woman, and this brings with it some uncomfortableness for Amy; she ends up moving in with this woman and her husband, both brilliant writers. There is pressure in delivering this latest piece of work of Helen's - can she come back into publication in the way that Helen wants, integrity in tact?

Lots of sex, lust, love and loyalty.

This was interesting as so many real life authors were mentioned. Even my favourite of all time - Harlan Coben, who was mentioned in terms of his usage of the spin off series.

I didn't love this as much as others, but I'm glad I read it as it was on my list for so long. And I do come across the author often through his past employer, one of Australia's largest book sellers.
December 29, 2018
While I liked this book, I definitely didn't love it. It was, however, a good 'read-next-to-the-pool-while-on-holiday' kind of book. Upon reflection, the storyline was quite dark in places and carried an overall vibe of general sadness and hopelessness, which my (obviously idealistic holiday-inspired) mindset found difficult to enjoy at times. It provided an interesting, and somewhat concerning, glance into the world of the publishing industry. I appreciated Purcell's writing style and found each of the main protagonists loveable in their own way. Actual rating is realistically a 3.5.
Profile Image for Deborah.
1,228 reviews87 followers
October 22, 2018
I had no idea what to expect going into this book. I'd seen some reviews around but most really only touched on the fact that John Purcell (who's well-known and heavily involved in the book / publishing industry here in Australia) had offered us an insider's view into that world. Almost all reviews I'd seen though, were overwhelmingly positive. 

As someone who tends to spurn Literary fiction (with a capital L) because I don't usually understand what the f*ck I'm reading, I was intrigued about this book which kinda centres around the perception there are two extremes to publishing.... the sell-out prolific commercial fiction author who makes lots of money vs the Literary fiction author, who's somewhat esoteric and learned, who wins literary prizes but makes no money.

The story unfolds predominantly from Helen and Amy's points of view. Though Malcolm (and their son Dennis, briefly) host we readers as well. Helen's story is told in third person, whereas Amy's is told in first person so we're very much in her head, which probably makes her more likeable than might otherwise be.

She's a bit of a bitch quite frankly... not particularly nice to anyone and kinda prides herself on her heavy drinking and sleeping-around lifestyle. She also sees herself as a bit of a genius though, having created a popular series of books with an author using a fairly formulaic approach - which she happily boasts of.

I don't tend to think of myself as much of a prude but I was somewhat agog at Amy's sexual exploits. Purcell only relays them in a superficial (but explicit) way, but I would have liked to delve deeper. I mean, it doesn't take a psychologist to know she's using sex for more than sexual pleasure but some of her (Purcell's) thoughts and descriptions about sex (and its power / destruction) are interesting and I would have liked to see them explored more.

"Not a word. Not a kiss. Ruined me. Ruined...."

"He was killing me. He knew what he was doing..." p 53

"Why wouldn't I want him to destroy me whenever he wanted to." p 173

Because we're 'in' Amy's head we know that she's fighting her own battle between good and evil. Well... between knowing that she's a bit of a fuck-up (and very occasionally thinking she needs to make some changes) and realising she's whip-smart and cynically / pragmatically settled for the life she has. She's passionate about books - that's for sure - but there's also a sense that she's shed something of her deeper love of words and the craft of writing when she opted for the path she's taken.

And we know (cos she tells us) that the august Helen and bombastic Malcolm, along with their passion for big L literature and authenticity (at all costs), hold a mirror up to Amy confronting her with the choices she's made.

When we meet them the 50+ year long bond between literary darlings is kinda broken. They're in their late 70s and Helen has only fairly recently 'sold out' as Malcolm (and her former editor) put it, taking a large advance to produce something more commercially palatable. It's a relief for Helen who's hated the lack of financial stability, but Malcolm pines for their past life and their shared office with its mismatched desks.

"He felt as the chair and books did, completely out of place in this new house. He too was rubbed around the edges and stained. This house was too beautiful, too clean, too expansive. And white. So white. He was a stain here. A living stain." p 50

Initially there's a polite but simmering antipathy between the pair. They talk. They have their usual literary discussions, but things have changed. They both know it. I'm not sure the disintegrating relationship was explained to the extent I would have liked. Although perhaps it's been happening for a long time, as (at one point) Helen describes her commitment to her work and Malcolm as 'total' (to the detriment of their son and other possible friendships).

Her marriage was a wall blocking intimacy with others. p 113

Malcolm's behaviour becomes erratic. Everyone around him suspects there's something medically wrong, but... perhaps not. 

His disdain towards his Man Booker nomination is intriguing. His book garnered little attention. It was hated by his agent and publisher, but they published it nonetheless. Even Malcolm describes it as "a cancer of a book that should be excised from the body of literature before it spreads." p 291

I didn't fully understand why he wrote it. Was it a vanity project? What was the source of his regret? He seemingly knew it was cynical and dark but pushed it into the hands of his agent et al nonetheless. And he's harbouring even more antipathy toward his current work which he describes as darker than his last.

"Darker than anything I've written. Darker than I thought possible. I can't shake it, either. It sits upon me like a blanket wherever I am, blocking all light. There's no hope. No redemption. Nothing." p 96

I must admit I spent much of this novel feeling angry at Malcolm - because of his lofty ideals, but more specifically his treatment of his wife. I assumed or hoped his rude disdain or pomposity was a result of an illness rather than an indication he'd always pretty much been a bastard and his wife - while she met his expectations - was one of few people he loved and respected.

Purcell writes well, cleverly and eloquently.

Character-wise there were little nuances that irked me - an occasional inconsistency or incongruity in the relationship between Helen and Malcolm as well as the way in which Amy viewed them both (and they her).

I must admit I found some of the sex scenes a bit confronting and just kinda crass in parts. I know it was meant to give us some insight into Amy but they seemed incongruous with the rest of the book and I probably could have done with a little less detail.

Having said that I recognise there's meant to be an extremity / dichotomy between Helen and Malcolm's vs Amy's lifestyles but there are also a couple of dire moments in the latter part of the book - one quite violent and seemed shockingly stark against everything else. (And too quickly recovered from, perhaps?)

What I really loved about this book however was its take on literature, publishing, commercial success, genre snobbery and the book industry in general. 

"Great writing is rare. With so little time on this planet, shouldn't we spend at least some of that time getting acquainted with the writers most often acknowledged as exceptional?

Every flash of brilliance in these current years is but a flash. Almost an accident rather than a consistent effort. A jazz flourish rather than a symphony. And we honour these flashes. There is no growth to greatness, just bursts of inspiration that fall into place and never built upon." p 74

As a contemplatory writer I really liked the thoughts on writing and the industry. Everything from the appointment of non-literary lovers into senior positions in publishing houses ('corporate interlopers'), to the bottom line in publishing to awards and prize giving. I wondered (a few times) if Purcell was using the book to voice some of his own opinions and interestingly I very much agreed with some (and know the sentiment around the recognition of female writers is probably a controversial one).

I realise this is a really long review. I think it's an indication I obviously very much enjoyed this book, but was equally frustrated by a couple of elements and characters The latter obviously are meant to be irksome. Perhaps the other elements are to be debated as well. It would - for that reason - be an excellent bookclub book.
Profile Image for Bree T.
2,157 reviews91 followers
October 17, 2018
As a lover of books, both the stories themselves and also the process of producing them, I really enjoy books that are set in the world of publishing. There’s something about them that really appeals to me – a glimpse behind the scenes, getting to know an author’s process but also editing as well as actual publishing, launch and promotion. And if you’re like me and enjoy that sort of stuff too then this book is definitely for you.

I absolutely loved this, from pretty much the first page. Amy is an editor who sort of blackmailed her way into her career and she’s an editor with a difference. She is roped in to coaxing a novel already paid for with a fat advance from literary mastermind Helen Owen, which is already well overdue. The publishing company need that novel and they need it to be a commercial success, despite the fact that Helen has always been an author with more critical success. Helen only works in hard copy and so Amy goes to stay with her and her husband Malcolm, also an author. They’ve moved from the flat they lived in together for almost fifty years to a modern new place with Helen’s fat advance and a lot is riding on Amy being able to find the gold in Helen’s work. Because if she doesn’t deliver, the publishers are coming to take their advance back.

Amy is equal parts amazing and a complete mess. She’s so smart when it comes to books and publishing and I absolutely love the way she went out there and grabbed her career by the balls basically and made it happen for her after too many rejections trying to get in the ‘regular’ way. She’s spun her own success, although much of it is a secret. Her vision is so good and she knows when she sees Helen’s work that she faces a real dilemma. As she spends more and more time with Helen and Malcolm, she begins to fall in love with them as writers and as people. Before meeting Helen, Amy had not read any of her prior work and at Malcolm’s urging, she reads her entire backlist. Amy has so many ideas about what she could do with Helen, none of which her publisher bosses would be interested in and she’s somewhat wasted editing blockbusters that admittedly, net her huge amounts of profit.

There are a lot of jokes, bookish references and gentle jabs at the book industry here. I’m currently slogging my way through 2018’s Man Booker short list (although that’s a bit inaccurate, I’m actually halfway through my first read and it’s fantastic, but I anticipate some will be slogs). Malcolm’s most recent book was long listed (then short listed) and neither Malcolm, nor Helen, to be honest, react in the expected way to accolades and neither of them expect him to win – after all, they’ve opened it up to the Americans now! Malcolm is a gruff old goat at first, seemingly a bit of a grump and cranky about their nice new digs and their separate offices but I came to have such affection for him the further the book went on. He’s so passionate about writing, about who they are and where they come from. He doesn’t see this new place as them any more than the book they want Helen to write to sell is who she is. He’s a huge admirer of his wife’s work, believes her to have one of the best minds of the modern era and it actually kind of blinds him in a way. This book took me to places I did not expect when I picked it up – the journey is laughter, appreciation, admiration and heartbreak. I’ve read that a few people have struggled with the character of Amy, presumably because she sort of acts like the heroes in the blockbuster novels she edits – she drinks far too much, she sleeps around an awful lot and she’s self destructing due to something she did in the past that haunts her. It’s all behaviour that we see a lot of from men in books and I wonder if it’s confronting to see it detailed so unabashedly in a female character. I enjoyed Amy for her passion – she didn’t have to work but she loved what she did so much. She makes some mistakes but she manages to be clever enough to keep herself in the game when others would have her out.

This is obviously written by someone that loves books – and I know most, if not all, authors love books. But this is more than that, it’s about the whole process. Not just the writing and the publishing but the debate and the sales and the talk. Literary and commercial, prize winners and whether or not women specific prizes or accolades are really necessary. There’s so much poured into this, it’s like every conversation I’ve ever had with someone who loves books as much as I do, in book form. And there’s a list of book recommendations from each character and the author at the back….which is perfection. I just love this idea, that we can get a snapshot into their reading tastes and can take further reading from the characters if we so choose. Quite a few books I’ve read but there are plenty I haven’t and if you relate to a particular character you have a few books to dive into after finishing this one! It’s a nice little touch.

***A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for the purpose of an honest review***
Profile Image for Monique Mulligan.
Author 15 books102 followers
September 24, 2018
The Girl on the Page by John Purcell is a pacy page-turner that raises interesting questions regarding the divide between commercial and literary fiction.

Through the characters of Amy, a commitment-resistant book editor, and Helen, a literary great who is struggling with the manuscript she’s been paid a whopping advance for, this novel gets to the essence of what it means to write because it is art, as opposed to writing to make money.

I appreciated the way this book gave such insight to the publishing industry, while delivering a tale that’s ultimately more heartfelt than I expected from the opening chapters (I struggled with Amy's character and wondered initially if I cared enough about her to keep reading, but I am glad I did).
Profile Image for Shazza.
113 reviews7 followers
July 8, 2019
This novel by Australian writer John Purcell is supposedly about genre writing vs literature but really deep down amongst all the sludge it's soft porn. Every character mopes around hating themselves and everyone else while flinging money around and indulging in wild sex and booze. Need a shower to cleanse myself after wading through this muck. A love letter to writers?? Really? Where's my Maeve Binchy?
Profile Image for Danielle McGregor.
303 reviews4 followers
October 27, 2018
Actual rating 4.5*

When I started reading this book I wasn’t really sure what it would be about. In all honesty the front cover first attracted me. The story is a behind the scenes look at the world of publishing and it doesn’t paint it in a positive light.

I fell in love with the 3 main characters and followed their journeys eagerly! The characterisation in this text is unique in the sense that there isn’t any real ‘baddies’ and that every character showed flaws.

There’s a story of sex and scandal that’s easy to follow, but there’s also a far deeper storyline that left me reeling. The ending is FULL ON but to avoid spoilers I won’t say anymore.

The suggested book lists at the end were a great touch!
4 reviews
November 25, 2019
Devoured this in less than 12 hrs. The characters were full of depth and flaws and wonder. I loved the insight and book recommendations and it was obvious just how much this author loves reading and writing. Would highly recommend!
Profile Image for Kat Betts.
21 reviews8 followers
December 9, 2018
Curious about how a book about editors would read, I picked up this book and went into it expecting a story about the publishing industry. This novel is so much more than that. It discusses the ramifications of our choices, damnation and redemption, love and lust, money and integrity, joy and sadness, life and death.

This book is not what I had expected it to be when I picked it up. It surprised me in its raw and uncompromising view of reality. This book is shocking and, in that, beautiful.
Profile Image for Jade Wright.
Author 5 books198 followers
November 4, 2018
Let me just say this is most possibly the most beautiful book cover I have ever seen. I hope no other covers / editions of this book ever come out.

I loved the idea of this novel... a book about books!? Sign me up. It's an ode to readers, writers, publishers, editors... everyone that adores the world of literature will surely love this book.

The Girl on the Page dives into the scandalous, eccentric, backstabbing world of publishing.
It's about a destructive young woman in the editing industry who in my opinion has a huge sex addiction. She sleeps around A LOT and drinks herself stupid. She doesn't really need to work but she does it out of passion for the environment but sadly the only way to save her career is to help Helen Owen, a great author in her seventies with her next book.

I loved the countless references to other well known authors and their books. It made this book seem so real.

After attending the Avid Reader event in Brisbane for this book I knew going in that this book would be highly sexual! But BOY this made me blush more than Fifty Shades of Grey did especially as I listened to it at work. I kept wondering what my colleagues would think of me if I accidentally pulled my headphones out! Hahaha

As entertaining and funny as this book is my GOD it is ripe with emotion and drama. Purcell did an excellent job of meshing these qualities together. This book will crush you and you don't expect it to. It seems like a saucy thriller full of humor and wit but etched in there is a brutal undertone of truth. I do have to say though that I felt this book wasn't certain what genre it wanted to latch on to. It's a bit of everything rolled into one and the sporadic chapters of thriller and soft porn could confuse some readers. Are we reading erotica, drama, romance? We're not really sure where to place the book or what to expect as we carry on reading. And then the ending.... it annihilates you. Be warned. Be prepared. You don't see it coming. It's gut-wrenching and incredible at the same time.

John Purcell 100% deserves the flattery he has received and will continue getting on this incredible book. Well done. I'm privileged to have met you and to be interviewing you on my bookish podcast Books & Booze later this month.

Profile Image for Lucy Bladen.
11 reviews1 follower
February 12, 2019
I completely agree with other reviews on here that say it was so clear Amy was written by a man. Amy is impossibly good looking and her looks are constantly and unnecessarily brought up. She also has a lot of sex and gives a lot of oral and these encounters were described very much in-depth, but added almost nothing.

The thing is, there was potential for her character. She clearly had a troubled backstory but that was only lightly touched upon, instead, most of her 'issues' in the novel seem to stem from a breakup from five years ago.

Other than that, I have incredibly mixed feelings for this book. At times I was so engrossed and could not put it down, at other times I was just waiting for it to be over. I didn't really like any of the characters, but maybe that was some of the appeal of the novel.

I enjoyed the relationship Amy developed with Helen and Malcolm and I think I would have liked the novel so much more if it focused more on that. The literary discussions were interesting, but the struggle Helen faced between publishing a commercial bestseller versus a work of literature got banal.

Profile Image for Maya Linnell.
Author 6 books141 followers
February 2, 2019
I was immediately roped into The Girl on the Page by the central character Amy, with her wealth, beauty, self-destructive streak and high sex-drive. A talented editor and ghost writer, Amy is on a downward spiral when she is tasked to work with a revered literary author. The unusual pairing forces Amy to reconsider her beliefs and direction, and also sparks a major shift for the older author Helen and her husband Malcolm. I loved the changing point of view between the very distinct protagonists, and the way the novel forced me to consider my own beliefs about fiction genres, how popular opinion and personal ambition colour our views, and the many manifestations of loneliness. The inside insights into the publishing world kept me entertained throughout, as did the mix of novel and author references, and the recommended reading list in the final pages, where each main character outlines their favourite books.
Profile Image for Rebecca Bowyer.
Author 3 books209 followers
January 3, 2021
The Girl on the Page, by John Purcell, is a highly entertaining, brilliantly written novel about the clash between popular fiction and literary fiction; 20th century and 21st century feminism; wisdom and youth.

I got ridiculously excited about this book and wrote a 1400-word review which I think is too long to reproduce here! You can read it over at Story Addict.
Profile Image for D.M. Cameron.
Author 1 book28 followers
May 15, 2019
Wow this book was quite a ride...it is enough to turn you off being a literary fiction writer when you think about what happens to the two literary characters in the book. This book continually surprised me and went places I didn't expect.. Well worth a read, especially if you are interested in the world of books. Highly recommend. (Unrated)
Profile Image for Sam Still Reading.
1,424 reviews63 followers
October 14, 2018
The Girl on the Page has been getting a lot of positive media coverage in Australia lately. It sounded like my kind of book – a heroine who couldn’t care less what the world thinks about her, life in publishing and two reclusive literary authors. So naturally I jumped in and started reading. The first thing I noticed is the writing. John Purcell’s writing is easy to read and easy to relate to – you’re in Amy’s world now, lock, stock and barrel. Amy is also a unique character as she should be unlikeable – but she isn’t. Whether that’s due to the chapters told by her in the first person or that none of the other characters disliked her wholly, I’m not sure.

The first thing the reader notices is that Amy is in a world of her own. She’s a brilliant enigma in the publishing world – she gets excellent results from her authors, even if the methods of pushing them to their brilliance is unorthodox. She’s also primarily self-taught with a lot of gumption – she got her start by retyping a mediocre thriller and editing it, then sending it to the author with a proposal. That’s how Amy became half of the wizardry behind the bestselling Jack Cade thriller novels. Amy’s personal life is also unorthodox. She jumps anything that’s on offer and shuns long-term relationships after having her heart broken. She’s also wealthy with no need to work, but usually rocks up to work at the publishing house drunk. If she bothers. She’s also extraordinarily beautiful. So really, everyone should hate her – a stunning, foul mouthed genius. But Amy has a vulnerability that is not fully exposed until she’s given the task of finding literary great Helen Ryan’s overdue manuscript. This involves moving into the flat below the townhouse Helen and husband Malcolm bought with the advance. Helen’s terrified she will lose the first glimpse of luxury she’s seen at the cost of selling out, going commercial. Her husband Malcolm believes she’s already sold out, grieving for the loss of their old life and refuses to read any more of her work. This is happening as Malcolm’s ‘horrible little book’ is longlisted for the Booker Prize and he’s thrust into the spotlight with meme-worthy results. As Amy works through Helen’s versions of the novel, she gets entangled in their lives. This leads her to question her current lifestyle and what she truly values. Helen and Malcolm do this too, but separately in a grief stricken way. All the characters circle around each other and don’t seek help until the last possible point, meaning that the ending turns out to be incredibly unexpected! (I’m not sure how else the book could have ended, but I wasn’t expecting that).

The Girl on the Page references a lot of books, authors and literary figures from Australia and worldwide. A recurring theme asks, what is literature and who defines that? Helen, Amy and Malcolm all have varying thoughts on the topic. Amy’s co-writer Liam (of Jack Cade fame) also desperately wants to be seen as a literary author, but his thoughts on this path are confused. But who is right? All the characters offer some insight into their perceptions and prejudices but ultimately there is no one truth. (As it should be!)

This is a book that combines the wild ride of a thriller novel with the insightful exploration of life of a slower paced, more literary novel. It’s certainly a ride I enjoyed.

Thank you to Harper Collins for the ARC of this book. My review is honest.

Profile Image for Bec Begg.
187 reviews7 followers
November 1, 2019
What a fabulous book about books for this lover of books! Crazily enough, a page-turner about non-page-turners.

And I found the central question - what constitutes ‘literature’ - so fascinating. Is it the difference between a ‘down hill’ read that is easy going and an ‘up hill read’ that you have to work on with every sentence? Is the difference in stories found plucked from universal truths rather than those plucked from life? Can we really judge people as a result of what they like to read and write (sadly I don’t think we can escape this, literary snobbery aside)...

There were a few story lines going on with this and I found it quite obvious that the central female character was written by a man - intelligent, stunning, hard drinking, bed hopping, bent on self destruction. As devastating as it was, the plot played out so well - I couldn’t get through this fast enough. I enjoyed the way the downhill trajectory of Amy’s life intersected with that of Helen and Malcolm, and then they all seemed to spiral out of control together. Twists were done well, and I still have one outstanding thought that I’m not sure was completely resolved with Daniel’s text “I’m sorry” (did HE email the manuscript to Julia-???). The last 3 chapters were done very well and I really enjoyed the Epilogue.

I’m not sure how to rate this - 3 stars? 5 stars? I was sitting on the fence with 4 stars but have to round up when I considered if I would recommend this to my friends. Absolutely!

Listened to the audio book (although read BRILLIANTLY, not recommended as I couldn’t write down all the references to other books I now want to read!)... not I have to get my hands on a hard copy and skim for all the amazing books either discussed or referred to
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