Friday, 1 April 2011

Review: The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein - Libby Schmais

Published: December 8th 2009, Delacorte Press
Pages: 276 pages, hardback
Series?: Nope, standalone
Acquired: Kindly sent for review

Summary (from Goodreads): Lotus Lowenstein's life is merde. She dreams of moving to Paris and becoming an existentialist. Yet here she is trapped in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a New-Agey mom, an out-of-work dad, and a chess champion brother who dreams of being a rock star.

Merci à Dieu for Lotus’s best friend, Joni, who loves French culture enough to cofound their high school’s first French Club with Lotus. At the first meeting, the cutest boy in the world walks in. His name is Sean, and he too loves French culture and worships Jean-Paul Sartre.
At first, Lotus thinks Sean is the best thing to happen to her in years. He’s smart, cultured, and adorable. Unfortunately, though, Joni feels the same way. And having an existentialist view of love, Sean sees nothing wrong with enjoying both girls’ affections.

Things come to a head when all three depart for Montreal with their teacher, Ms. G, on the French Club’s first official field trip. Will Sean choose Joni over Lotus? And will Lotus and Joni’s friendship ever recover?

My review: Now, any contemporary YA is pretty much a surefire hit with me - I love the genre above all others and it's my go to for fun, light hearted reads and leave me with a smile on my face. The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein isn't going to top your list of favourite books but it'll put you in a good mood and provide you with a couple of hours of entertainment - perfect for the sunny days ahead of us.

Lotus is, for want of a better word, a pretentious teen who adores all things French. She is frustrated with her standard American life and wishes she could spend her days relaxing in a Parisien cafe with a glass of wine and a tanned man called Pierre, or something equally French. After meeting new boy Sean she becomes obsessed with existentialism - although she quickly realises Sean's existentialist view of love qualifies him to date both Lotus and her best friend, Joni, with potentially disastrous results. And there's a trip to France thrown in there for good measure. *Edit: Thanks to Anon for pointing it out - there's a trip to Montreal thrown in there for good measure, not France. Sorry for that, folks, but just to clarify - I did read the book, I promise*

My main issue with the book was probably Lotus herself. I didn't find her particularly likeable and I honestly wasn't concerned about what happened to her as the story panned out. She was just a little too pretentious for my liking - waxing lyrical about existentialism without really understand its meaning, she just used Simone de Beauvoir as an excuse to treat her best (and only) friend like crap. Honestly, I much preferred Joni as a character and would have loved to have seen her get a little more page time.

Aside from my grumbles about Lotus I did enjoy the book - there was enough of a plot that it kept me entertained, despite my dislike for the main character. For me, the highlight of the story was their trip to France as Schmais' writing really came into its own, with vivid descriptions and lovely prose - good stuff. Give this one a try if you've got a couple of spare hours and enjoy contemporary YA - though in my opinion you're much better off reading The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, which is brilliant.

First line: 'As you may have guessed, my name is Lotus Lowenstein and this is my diary.'

Plot: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Cover: 4/5
Total: 13/20 (C)

Alternative cover:


  1. Great review! The more I browse others the more I realise how amateur and new to reviewing I am. Yet another author I haven't heard of but will keep an eye out for, thanx

  2. Okay really! It's llike you didn't eeven read the book. They didn't go to france, they went to montreal which is said in the book is french canada. Lotus didn't treat joni badly, sean just made joni and lotus far away from each other. Oh, another explanation to why they didn't go to france, they went on a TRAIN!!!! CAN YOU GO FROM BROOKLYN TO FRANCE ON A TRAIN?! NONONONONONONONONONONONONONO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! So I came to this website to get a different view of a good book I've read, but I found a terrible person making incorrect comments about an amazing book.


Thank you kindly for the comment, you sweet thing.