Katerina by James Frey

Paris 1992:

An existence based on want. Of pure gluttony and desire. Cultivating a life of art, sex, drugs, and writing. A hard-driving frenetic love of Katerina.

Los Angeles 2017:

Stability. Boredom. Guilt. Commercial success. Deep self-hatred. Selling out. A love defined by partnership of wife, mother of children.

Katerina is the story of Jay, as told through the raw emotions of a young person barely out of his teens juxtaposed with the entrenched notions of a middle-aged man. Frey’s novel is a compulsive and affecting autobiographical look at the jump that we all take from self-possession to the epiphany of selflessness. A love story dedicated to the changes we must endure.

Frey’s writing can be polarizing. It is aggressive, and graphic. Arresting, yet diverging. Something as simple as describing a French bakery will morph into a canvassing of all the country’s sensibilities. The language is beautiful and addicting. It’s fast and my eyes run and run. It feels like I’m continually reading downhill. Chasing the next, ignoring, punctuation, biting word and word.

Katerina is at once a decent into alcoholism, a blistering tour of Paris, and a chance at reconnecting. It stirred up resentments and old dirty guilt, yet also past loves and memories of a time when we all care less about the consequences and more about the immediate pleasure that life gives. I was constantly questioning my own turning points: When did I shift my focus from the now to the next day to the future? Is it the shock of mortality from a death? Is it having children? It’s a short book, but it is one that left me with countless personal thoughts, and a continued appreciation for James Frey’s writing.

5 out of 5 stars

Releases September 11th.

Thank you to NetGalley, Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books, and James Frey for an advanced copy for review.

4 thoughts on “Katerina by James Frey

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  1. Your writing about this one is stunning, Paul! I appreciate all the ways it made you self-reflect and feel. Your review made me do the same with those questions! I read his past books, and even with the controversy, they were brilliant. I requested this one but got a really quick denial. I’m glad I could learn more about the book through your review. Well-done!

    Liked by 1 person

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