Growing up is always hard, but especially when so many think you’re a washed-up has-been at twenty-two.
Jena Lin plays the violin. She was once a child prodigy and now uses sex to fill the void left by fame. She’s struggling a little. Her professional life comprises rehearsals, concerts, auditions and relentless practice; her personal life is spent managing the demands of her strict family and creative friends, and hooking up. And then she meets Mark – much older and worldly-wise – who consumes her. But at what cost to her dreams?
When Jena is awarded an internship with the New York Philharmonic, she thinks the life she has dreamed of is about to begin. But when Trump is elected, New York changes irrevocably and Jena along with it. Is the dream over? As Jena’s life takes on echoes of Frances Ha, her favourite film, crucial truths are gradually revealed to her.
A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing explores female desire and the consequences of wanting too much and never getting it. It is about the awkwardness and pain of being human in an increasingly dislocated world – and how, in spite of all this, we still try to become the person we want to be. This is a dazzling and original debut from a young writer with a fierce, intelligent and audacious voice.
Jessie Tu trained as a classical violinist for more than 15 years. She has taught music at many prestigious Australian schools, refugee camps in the Middle East, volunteered with AUSAID in The Solomon Islands, won residencies in the USA, and now works as a journalist at Women’s Agenda and book critic for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald. Tu has won several poetry and writing awards and her first book of poetry was released in 2018. A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing is her first novel.
A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing is fresh, contemporary and bold – and has been crafted with verve by its first-time author, Jessie Tu. The novel delves into the life of an Australian artist, but not the white, male character who often frequents literature. Nor does it portray the hedonistic life of a visual artist. Instead, this novel centres on a violinist – a young, Australian-born Chinese woman. Once a child prodigy, Jena is trying for a second chance at success. She is also a woman driven by her sexual needs and a skewed sense of her own worth.
Power dynamics, along with friendships and rivalries – both musical and personal – spike the narrative. Most of the story takes place in Sydney and New York, while Shanghai also gets a nod. It’s a heady mix: the descriptions of her musical practice and the pressures of performing are illuminating, while her risk-taking and intimate relationships are writ uncomfortable, but all too believable.
‘With A Lonely Girl Is A Dangerous Thing, Tu has made a remarkable and strong entry into the national literary scene. ‘ Astrid Edwards, Australian Book Review
‘This is a fascinating and intense debut that challenges systemic racism and misogyny, particularly in the progressive artistic world… Jessie Tu is an incredible new voice in Australian literature.’ Kara Nicholson, Readings
‘…a raw and illuminating book. ‘ Karen Viggers, Canberra Times