‘Tuesday Nights in 1980’ by Molly Prentiss – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

A transcendent debut novel that follows a critic, an artist, and a desirous, determined young woman as they find their way—and ultimately collide—amid the ever-evolving New York City art scene of the 1980s.

Welcome to SoHo at the onset of the eighties: a gritty, not-yet-gentrified playground for artists and writers looking to make it in the big city. Among them: James Bennett, a synaesthetic art critic for The New York Times whose unlikely condition enables him to describe art in profound, magical ways, and Raul Engales, an exiled Argentinian painter running from his past and the Dirty War that has enveloped his country. As the two men ascend in the downtown arts scene, dual tragedies strike, and each is faced with a loss that acutely affects his relationship to life and to art. It is not until they are inadvertently brought together by Lucy Olliason—a small town beauty and Raul’s muse—and a young orphan boy sent mysteriously from Buenos Aires, that James and Raul are able to rediscover some semblance of what they’ve lost.

As inventive as Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad and as sweeping as Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, Tuesday Nights in 1980 boldly renders a complex moment when the meaning and nature of art is being all but upended, and New York City as a whole is reinventing itself. In risk-taking prose that is as powerful as it is playful, Molly Prentiss deftly explores the need for beauty, community, creation, and love in an ever-changing urban landscape.

My Review

“She woke up the next morning to see the still-wet picture of herself, knowing forever had started, if forever were what forever felt like, which was a year in New York City when you were in love.”

Do you dream of New York?

For those of us that don’t live there and perhaps even for those of us that do, I think we all dream of New York to some extent. It’s that place on earth that we imagine everything to be more vibrant, more real somehow. New York is my fantasy book setting. It’s my million words away. Its charms are almost akin to something from another mystical and magical realm.

Tuesday Nights in 1980 was full of life and living with art, sex, pain, love, loss, guilt and characters that were utterly messed up but beautifully human. It was colourful and vibrant, somehow both butterfly inducing and stomach churning, gritty and grime ridden, hopeful and apathetic, and it gave me the New York of my dreams. Everything I want to believe that New York is, is right in the pages of this book.

“Even the number 8 of 1980 felt glossy and airy and shiny in his mind, like an unpoppable balloon, nothing like its bony predecessor, 7. The year ahead would either ooze with brightness or deflate with emptiness, put perhaps both. Only time would tell.”

This New York took place over the course of one year, 1980 and the city took no prisoners. It took an interesting mix of multilayered characters and then roughed them up and spat them out at the end but their lives were somehow richer for it?!??? I truly hope this New York is real and not someone else’s dream too because this is the city that I want to someday visit, to some day experience for myself. But if it’s not, if it’s all just a fiction…it was a wonderful place to escape to for a little while.

four stars

“This is a girl on her first night in New York.

A girl in someone else’s clothes.

A girl who can feel the slice of her stomach showing, between someone else’s shirt and someone else’s jeans.

A girl who is being handed a drink involving gin, that tastes like poison and sunshine at once.

A girl in a room full of other girls just like her, who have come here to tunnel down into their own dark parts and find the light.

A girl who is being swept out into the middle of a crash of dancing bodies, who lets her own body writhe among them, who lets the fire of the gin heat her already hot stomach, who begins to wiggle her extremities, who lets two beautiful boys who are dancing together pull her between them, who laughs while they gyrate against her, who lets the beauty red and purple lights spin around and inside of her, thinking: This is it, this is it, this is it.”

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7 thoughts on “‘Tuesday Nights in 1980’ by Molly Prentiss – Book Review

  1. What an interesting setting for a book! The cover really draws you in but the quotes you shared really reel you in. Great review, Emer!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, that first quote you shared is just 😍 if the title alone didn’t already make me want to read this then that quote definitely would have me keeping my eyes out for it. Definitely love the sound of this! I’ve defo had my dreams about NYC but I feel that they’re all a little idealistic 🤣 That said, it’s always a nice place to escape to in my head! Love this review, Emer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s nice to be a little bit idealistic sometimes. That’s what I loved about this book. It had that air of idealism but then the characters and the plot truly grounded it. Was one of those delightful library finds that I picked up based on the title alone and was very pleasantly surprised to find an awesome story within its pages :)))


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