Our resident book enthusiast, Chloe Johnson, has reviewed Lillie Lainoff's new offering, One for All. Grab you cup of tea, a piece of cake, and settle in for a ripping feminist adventure in Paris.
[Image: cover of the book One for All by Lillie Lainoff show s main character Tania looking proud, wearing a red Victorian style dress, her brown hair styled in a high bun and holding up her ornate sword. Swords at pointed at her as she stand in front of a stone doorway.]
by Chloe Johnson.
One For All was presented as everything I wanted from a book: chronic illness representation, female friendship, a strong character arc and - well - Paris. This meant there was a lot riding on it, and the anticipation to open that first page only grew. As I closed the final page, however, I felt empowered, seen and, honestly? Like I wanted to try fencing.
It was everything I had hoped it would be.
It was everything I had hoped it would be. Lainoff uses an easy-to-understand prose to dissect a complicated illness, and it really was the focus on chronic illness being a part of you, as opposed to something that takes away from the “real” you that held up the emotion of this story for me. There was plenty of other action, intrigue and fun conversation to keep you enthralled - I mean who can resist a ball where women have knives under their petticoats? - if more internal struggles are not your thing, but I was glad we got to see Tania in all her multifaceted glory. The most potent part for me is exploring her relationship to her parents, who are caring for a Disabled child, and how that can bring up complex emotions all on its own. It’s easy enough to tell disabled people to not feel like a burden, but it’s far more difficult to put that into emotive practice when the way we interact and deal with the world is, objectively, different to a non-disabled person. Tania, however, is always presented in her glory, and we can see how different can become the norm if we let it. Her chronic illness (POTS) is there for the drama, and it’s there for the mundane moments. It’s never used as a convenient prop, but a real discussion on how POTS changes her life, and how people change around her to accommodate her. I really did adore this, as her access needs are never viewed as taxing - just normal. The way some people need glasses.
Her chronic illness (POTS) is there for the drama, and it’s there for the mundane moments.
Lainoff guides us so expertly through the story that I really did anticipate all of the events that cropped up, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The key word is anticipated. I thought I knew what, vaguely, would happen, but I didn’t know how. And this book makes us want to know the how. Lainoff takes well known tropes, and twists them on it’s head, and I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on female friendships. I can’t help but be drawn to a femme fatale, but Lainoff shows you the before. Before they became sophisticated, believing in themselves, maybe even a little jaded in love - and I love how much we see Tania grow.
Part of what I really enjoy about being a part of the writing community is the sheer passion everyone puts into their work, in critiquing others, helping everyone on their journey to get published…it reminded me of Tania and her sisters. For me, this felt like a novel that shined with this type of love, that stems from a real passionate belief in what you do. You can tell Lainoff cares about her characters, and presenting their story in the best way possible - and it made me love them too.
If this book was a cake, it would be serving you up a slice of hope. Perhaps Marie Antoinette wasn’t in this historical France, but I think you should eat up anyway.
Chloe Johnson is a freelance writer and editor, with words in The Independent, Stylist Magazine and iPaper. Oh, and she is also deputy editor of Conscious Being; and she's a massive Taylor Swift fan. You can follow Chloe on Twitter - @ladychloestark and on Instagram here - @ladychloestark