Entertainment / Books

Love, sex and real estate: Diving into sexy summer reads

Hunting Houses follows a married real estate agent as she contemplates an affair.

Montreal author Fanny Britt has just published her latest novel, Hunting Houses, which is about a real estate agent who is contemplating having an affair.

Courtesy Julie Artacho

Montreal author Fanny Britt has just published her latest novel, Hunting Houses, which is about a real estate agent who is contemplating having an affair.

It’s a confusing time to be a mother. Women are bombarded with images of a beatific pregnant Beyoncé, yet instructed by the same media outlets to lose unsightly post-pregnancy weight. Facebook “wine mom” is a meme both ridiculed and heavily merchandised. And despite the much-needed coverage of postpartum depression realities, mothers are still instructed to always put their children first — but heaven forbid, don’t be accused of helicopter parenting.

In 2013, Montreal author Fanny Britt was researching a story about motherhood and feminism. As she interviewed many women of different backgrounds, Britt was struck by how many confessed secret feelings of anger and sadness. Britt — an accomplished playwright and translator who won a 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for her debut graphic novel, Jane, the Fox and Me — had always wanted to write a novel, and found her inspiration in these women’s taboo emotions.

Hunting Houses follows three days in the life of Tessa, a 37-year-old married real estate agent and the mother to three young boys, after she agrees to a clandestine meeting with her ex-boyfriend, Francis. As Tessa debates internally whether to upend her seemingly happy marriage for a man she hasn’t seen in years, the experience churns up memories of her early life and unfulfilled physical, professional and emotional desires, while her anxieties flare over the realities of an aging body, fat ankles and all. Although it’s revealed that Tessa’s relationship with Francis was hardly the model of true romance, Britt’s novel is an unflinching reminder that heartbreak doesn’t discriminate. “It’s a super-mediocre relationship,” she says. “It really tells more things about her own feelings of sadness and worthlessness.”

Britt decided that real estate was the ideal profession to show Tessa’s often superficially severe judgement of others. “There’s something in real estate that is very close to that,” Britt says. “You look at real estate online, and immediately you judge how people live, and if this is a picture of happiness.”

Although Hunting Houses only takes place over a span of a couple days, Britt reveals, moment by moment, the lifetime of a woman caught between the expectations of motherhood and personal fulfillment. “It felt important the story was contained in time because if she had three weeks to think about it, nothing would have happened,” Britt says. “Not so much stuff can happen in three days, so you have to make these ordinary days seem interesting. But I prefer exploring what happens in a super-ordinary life, and its thrills and tragedies.”

SEXY SUMMER READS

Bridge Retakes by Angela Lopes
A beautifully written debut tale of millennial relationships as a Bahian man and a Brazilian-Canadian woman meet on an online website, and despite the geographic distance, fall in love. Inevitably there are heartbreaking challenges, namely the berth between their cultural, familial and economic values, which threatens to tear the new lovers apart.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
An inexperienced magazine writer is granted a coveted interview with an aging starlet, as notorious for her beauty as her many lovers and spouses. Even if you’re not a fan of golden-era Hollywood, this heartbreaking story resonates, thanks to the formidable titular character.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen
Madonna. Lena Dunham. Nicki Minaj. Melissa McCarthy. Hillary Clinton. In 10 provocative essays, BuzzFeed writer and Twitter favourite Anne Helen Petersen profiles controversial celebrity icons, demonstrating, with her signature wit, how women with “too much” are both revered and reviled.

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