Books > Fiction > Joan Smokes
Winner of the inaugural Mslexia Novella Award, 2019
She used to be someone else, but now she’s arrived in Vegas, where she can start again. It won’t do to let the past leak in. It’s the Sixties now. She’s going to become … Joan.
She makes a list: Buy a new dress (fitted, floral). Dye her hair (dark). Curl it. Buy red lipstick. Buy cigarettes and a lighter, too: Joan, she decides, is a smoker.
There’s no need to dwell on why she’s here, what went before. She is just moving forward, one foot in front of the other, becoming that new person. Joan.
This city of flashing neon, casinos and shows is full of distractions. Finding a job will be quick and easy. Things to do. New people to meet. A clean sheet.
She’s certainly not thinking about Jack, or … No. Not any more.
Her new life starts right here, right now.
Prizes and awards
Winner of Mslexia Novella Award, 2019
REVIEWS OF Joan Smokes
‘There is so much to admire in Joan Smokes – the winning entry of the inaugural Mslexia Novella Competition. Its pared-back brittle language is as stark as the Nevada landscape. It’s a sophisticated piece of writing, in which the author pushes at the boundaries of language and form; anguish and suffering are evoked at every turn, in thwarted rhythms and rough syntax. But the real magic is in how the author puts the reader so surely in the protagonist’s shoes. It feels like a cliché to say that good writing should ‘suck you into another psyche’ as Barbara Kingsolver puts it, but empathy is what we all need more of, especially now. As an act of empathy, as well as a beautifully rendered work of literature, Joan Smokes shines.’ Eloise Millar, Mslexia judge