Arts & Culture Opinion

Vanishing Husbands, Unconventional Love and Razor-Sharp Humour: Jenn Ashworth’s Ghosted: A Love Story

When June came around, the anticipation for a new book from iconic Northern author, Jenn Ashworth, was finally relieved with the release of Ghosted: A Love Story. Published by Sceptre, it’s the latest in a string of diverse, gripping and unforgettable reads written by the Preston-born, now Lancaster-based author.

On first impressions, Ghosted may appear to be a book about the modern dating concept of ignoring someone into non-existence. While the author does touch on that idea being the origin of the title, her book subverts it, taking it to new extremes. Her husband literally vanishes without a trace, whether purposefully or not.

The premise of the story is really that simple — it’s the vivid complexity of the self, relationships and navigating those two things which makes this book so incredible. On one ordinary morning, Laurie’s husband, Mark, disappears. Leaving his phone and wallet behind, he vanishes from the face of the earth, seemingly without a trace. The story explains how Laurie tells no-one for weeks, going about her daily life as if nothing has changed at all. As far as elevator pitches go, it’s certainly a book I was very intrigued to get into.

Laurie decides that in order to establish why her husband has disappeared from the present, she must revisit the past and retrace the steps of their relationship. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Ashworth’s brilliant novel is the way she captures the complexity of love and the way we interact with others. In Ghosted, marriage is ordinary in moments, exceptional in others; dull at times and warm in glimpses. There is no black and white with Ashworth’s characters — every person and the relationships they’re entangled in are laced with excitement, intrigue and multi-layered complexity.

While diving into the depths of love and all of it’s mysteries, the author delivers the story with some of the wittiest and most humorous writing I have ever experienced. Despite the content being deeply sad and heart-wrenching at times, Ashworth’s storytelling is cackle-inducing to say the least. In one instance, the narrator refers to Penelope, the wandering Odysseus’ faithful wife as a ‘poor daft sap’. While reminding the reader that the author is definitely northern, she makes use of classical parallels in the funniest way possible. Rivalling the likes of Otessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation or Raven Leilani’s Luster, the book combines tragedy with wit in a way that makes an unsolved mystery satisfying — it was truly a delight to read.

As well as razor-sharp humour and complex relationships, Ghosted also explores class, physicality and memory, all with absolute writing excellence. There’s no doubt that this book deserves a place on everyone’s summer to-be-read pile, especially if they’re particularly interested in flawed women narrators and on the lookout for a Northern setting. Jenn Ashworth is a stellar writer and Ghosted is the perfect addition to her already-iconic list of books, all entirely unique and eccentric in their own special way.

Ghosted: A Love Story was published in early June, now available to buy here.


Words: Beth Barker 

Beth Barker is a writer and blogger from Blackpool, now working in Manchester. She also co-hosts Up North Books, a podcast celebrating books and writers from the North of England. 

Beth wanted to contribute a monthly review to NRTH LASS in order to shine a light on Northern women writing great books. The North is very much underrepresented in publishing and she hopes a monthly review throughout 2021 will showcase the talent Northern women have to offer.

For more book reviews and insights on publishing in the North, follow Beth on Instagram and Twitter.

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