A very good wlw historical fiction novel set in the 1980s

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wlw historical fiction novel

A very good wlw historical fiction novel set in the 1980s

Review of ‘Invisible as Music’ by Caren J. Werlinger, audiobook narrated by Ann Etter

This is a very good wlw historical fiction novel set in the US in the 1980s during the first presidency of Ronald Reagan. I wouldn’t set it firmly in the romance category as it mostly emphasises on a strong platonic bond between the characters but it’s about a love of a different kind but not necessarily less deep or committed.


In the early 1980s, Henrietta Cochran is a reclusive artist living with the severe effects of polio she contracted in 1945. When her live-in companion leaves, she offers the post to college professor Meryn Fleming who is the complete opposite to her: out, outspoken, fiercely political, and also 30 years younger. Both women start an unexpected friendship that eventually develops into something deeper. But will they be able to overcome the huge age-gap and Henrietta’s reclusive tendencies?

This is a very good read about life in the 1980s for lesbians and women in general. It touches many sensitive issues such as racism, sexism, disability, sexual harassment, and homophobia. As there is 30 year-age-gap between the main characters, there are also many differences in their worldview.

Henrietta is a wounded soul who has suffered from the limiting effects of polio in her body, shaping her into a middle-aged guarded person while Meryn is young, extrovert, and outspoken. Henrietta is a Republican, Meryn a Democrat, so to say that they are opposites is an understatement. But somehow, Ms. Werlinger makes their unpredicted bond sound natural and organic to the story.

As I said above, this isn’t a traditional romance as it stresses more in the platonic rather than the physical aspects of the relationship. It’s my understanding that the author doesn’t write sex scenes in her novels (I might be wrong as I haven’t read all her catalogue). Even though I prefer intimate scenes in romances, as this isn’t a typical one, they aren’t needed to deepen their relationship.

Having said that, as both characters address the need to take their bond to the physical level, and Henrietta has understandable body image issues, I think that the novel should have raised the matter somehow, not necessarily in an explicit way. It seemed to me that it left a loose end that should have been tied up. However, this issue didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of the story.

The audiobook narration by Anne Etter was impeccable. This is the first time I’ve listened to this narrator and I enjoyed the overall tone of the story and her different voices for each character. At a length of 11 hrs and 10 mins, this audiobook is good value for your Audible credit and it’s also available with a Scribd subscription. 4.5 stars.

Audiobook generously provided by the author.

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