Ladykiller by Charlotte Gill

Ladykiller by Charlotte Gill

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Trade, 230 pages, 2005

Rating: 10/10

Reason for Reading: I haven’t been reading enough Canadian authors lately – and I miss it!

Synopsis: Ladykiller is a collection of seven short stories, ranging in content from a backwards glance at events leading up to a car crash; to twin sisters who fight to stay separate and yet can’t escape each other; to a couple in such a brutal power struggle it seems they would rather go down in flames than concede any sort of victory to the other.

Why you should read this book: Crackling with a truth that is both brutal and tender, Ladykiller astounds and impresses with each and every carefully chosen word. The characters battle against each other, life, and above all, themselves, as Gill shows deft understanding of human nature at its best and at its worst. Edgy without being the slightest bit pretentious, Ladykiller is just the sort of shakeup that Canadian literature needs. I often avoid modern short stories because the brilliant content is ruined by authors who don’t know how to end things on the right note, but Gill gracefully brings each story to a close in a way that’s not too neat, but not too open, either. If you want a book that will knock you out of a reading slump, Ladykiller is sure to provide a fantastic jolt to the brain that will leave you grateful for every vivid sentence. A must-read…so what are you waiting for?

Why you should avoid this book: Like almost all of the books that I rate a ten, the only reason to avoid the book is a matter of personal taste – you’ll probably enjoy this book the most if you’re in your 20s or 30s; but go on, surprise me.

Opening paragraph:

What could happen next besides gravity, besides the falling?

Fabulous quotes:

The horizon pukes sherbety light on another gorgeous morning. Patty storms out of bed, throws her clothes on the bed and stomps around on her heels over every square inch of the apartment. She feels like a stretched length of yarn, like something dangled from a rooftop. Brian appears, puffy eyed. His big goofy hands scratch around in the pockets of his robe.
‘What’s up?’ he asks.
‘I’m going to work.’ She looks at him through eye slits, on the verge of some dangerous honesty. She fumes into the hall and snatches her coat off its hook. Brian’s slippers scuff along the floor. Pick up your goddamn feet, she thinks.

Gary’s mother smiles wanly and shakes Roz’s hand with the ends of her fingers. Sensing weakness, Roz relaxes. She moves in to attack with kindness. An awkward little hug and a cheek-to-cheek kiss. Their trip over was brilliant! They are thrilled to be invited! Because, in public, this is what Roz does best. She pumps air into moments until they are lighter and happier than ever, like blimps tied to parade floats.
Gary watches two parts of his life collide, small yet large, like atoms in a particle accelerator. His mother disentangles herself and shuffles a few steps backwards. She eyes Roz dubiously. It pleases him. He’s afraid of what they’d talk about if they ever got the chance.

Also recommended: gods in Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson; Lucky Girls by Nell Freudenberger; The Girls by Lori Lansens; Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall.

Also by this author: Ladykiller is Gill’s first book.

Author’s website:

Fun tidbit: Along with winning the B.C. Book Prize, Ladykiller was nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award.

Would I read more by this author? I’ll content myself with Gill’s blog until her next book comes out.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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