Jennifer Krasinski at Bookforum:
In the years before a woman becomes a writer, the rooms are never her own, and that can be a very fine thing. Decades before receiving the Baudelairian authorship, when she first moved to Paris as a young woman, Hazel Brown stayed in cheap hotels, admiring the neutrality of spaces designed for everyone and no one: “No judgment, no need, no contract, no seduction: just the free promiscuity of a disrobed mind.” She thereafter sublets teensy, humble apartments, living alongside the unremarkable belongings of people she doesn’t know—an actress (a role-player), a graphologist (a handwriting analyst). She spends her days reading in the park, filling her head with the words of others, of people she also doesn’t know, and picking up boys to kiss and fuck. She is equally enamored of sex and sentences; each, sensual and electrifying, grazes her body, at once possessing it and proving its otherness. She takes menial jobs: one at the summer house of a convalescing widow, for whom she performs all manner of household duties; later, she’s hired to mind the daughter of a wealthy couple, shuttling her from school back to their apartment, where Hazel Brown does the ironing and dusting, playing proxy for the wife and mother who recently returned to work.