From debut Australian author Diana Reid comes a new story titled Love and Virtue.
Written with a strikingly contemporary voice that is both wickedly clever and incisive, Diana raises issues of consent, class, and institutional privilege in this book. The story within follows Michaela and Eve – two bright, bold women who become friends in their first year of university. After a drunken encounter during O-Week, the two are forced to confront the realities of consent and wrestle with the dynamics of power.
Exclusively for QBD Books, Diana explains her inspiration behind the novel:
Love & Virtue—an Australian campus novel about an explosive friendship between two very different, but equally brilliant young women—is my first novel, so I’m in no position to generalise about how writers are inspired, or what ingredients make up fiction. I suspect, however, that most authors are inspired by everything at once—from the tallest literary giants, to the smallest, most private moments. In an attempt to impose some limits on this murky sea of ‘inspiration,’ I’ve decided to look at three facets of the novel: style, character, and theme.
In terms of style, Love & Virtue wears its inspiration on its sleeve. As a reader, I love campus novels! In part, that’s because I’ve spent a lot of time on campus—I wrote my debut the year after I left university. But it’s not all personal. I think part of my passion for the genre is also dramatic. You don’t need to have read Brideshead Revisited or The Secret History—if you’ve watched five minutes of reality TV, you’ll know that environments where people live on top of each other are pressure-cookers for conflict. Add to that a cast of young people at a vulnerable time in their lives figuring out who they want to be and questioning the world around them, and campus settings provide an easy recipe for both drama and comedy.
Second, my protagonists: these brilliant young women. Here I was inspired by female friendships—both in my own life, and in literature like Zadie Smith’s Swingtime and Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. In both the novels and in life, these female friendships are toxic, invigorating, and without exception: utterly formative. In Love & Virtue I tried to create a similarly complex dynamic between my two protagonists: Michaela and Eve. They both study philosophy at university, and each woman’s conception of her own success depends on the other’s failure. On the one hand, this competition is toxic, but, on the other, it’s inspiring: to have a rivalry, you have to take your ambitions seriously, and take your opponent seriously—admire them even. While Michaela and Eve might fantasise about bringing each other down, that very exercise also works to push them both to greater heights.
And finally, the themes… Love & Virtue uses contemporary themes of sex, power and consent to ask a timeless question: what does it mean to be a good person? I think this question is probably unanswerable, and that’s precisely why I find it so inspiring. For me, personally, I don’t enjoy books that read like lectures, and tell me what to think. I want books that reveal the world to me afresh: richer and more complicated than I’d previously thought. That’s the experience I’ve tried to create (In a fun way! With jokes!) in Love & Virtue. I want to take situations that seem black and white—a drunken sexual encounter, student/teacher affair, a toxic female friendship—and ask my reader to look again: to find the grey.