Book review: Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny

early morning riser katherine heinyLately I’ve found myself wanting to read books which are humorous and light but with a literary feel too. When I browse novels tagged as literary humour, they often turn out to be either cosy mysteries or romance, with a formulaic feel. So I was very happy to have Early Morning Riser to review.

Jane has moved to Boyne City to take up a position as an elementary school teacher and has fallen for Duncan, an easy-going charming man. Everyone likes Duncan, so much so that virtually every woman she meets has slept with him – and remained on good terms. He’s charmingly unreliable, and his assistant, Jimmy, spends most of the day fending off clients at his furniture restoration business.

Then a dramatic event draws Jane in deeper to the obligations of small-town life. At the same time she realises that Duncan is only willing to sacrifice his freedom for one person – and it’s not her.

Early Morning Riser is an amusing take on the pleasures and compromises of family and community. There are lots of great set-piece scenes – in the classroom, with Jane’s brilliantly awful mother, with Duncan’s ex-wife and her terrible husband.

It does have a topsy-turvy structure. The key reversals happen at the start of the book. The second half is more a series of set-piece scenes. I kept waiting for the drama to heat up, but the epiphany, when it comes, feels like it’s answering a different question to the one raised by what’s gone before.

Still, that’s a quibble. Early Morning Riser made me laugh out loud several times. Its characters and setting are full of warmth while still having an edge that stop it being sickly sweet.

I received a copy of Early Morning Riser from the publisher via Netgalley.
View Early Morning Riser on Goodreads



  1. Good question. I would say literary fiction is concerned more with ideas and use of language than with plot conventions. But as you say, it’s more about how you feel when you read it.


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