By Any Other Name by author Jodi PicoultWomen have been fighting for recognition since time immemorial—it’s no secret. Jodi Picoult explores this topic in her upcoming novel By Any Other Name. She juxtaposes two female characters in what seems, on the surface, to be two very different sets of circumstances.

Melina Greene is a current-day playwright struggling to be recognized for her work. Early in her career, she experienced some withering critiques. Her best friend is another playwright, but neither of them has had the success they hoped for.

In the second plot line, Melina’s ancestor, Emilia Bassano, lives in 17th-century London. She’s a contemporary of famed playwrights Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare, who also figure in Picoult’s plot. Her life is difficult in countless ways, and yet she persists.

In its simplest form, this is a book about all the ways patriarchal society holds women down- then and now. It is an exceedingly well-told story, if deeply frustrating.

Picoult develops the Bassano storyline more. Set in a time I love, the period details and fraught relationships in Emilia’s life were fascinating. I especially appreciated how Picoult considers additional marginalized communities beyond women.

In fact, after reading this book and the author’s notes, I ordered a scholarly book investigating whether the plays we typically credit to Shakespeare were indeed his work. I can’t wait to dive into that information.

On the other hand, the current-day storyline with Melina felt less captivating to me. Even though she’s inherently likable, Melina spent more time complaining than Emilia. Perhaps that’s a feature of our 21st-century life, with our style of social media oversharing. Nevertheless, adding Melina’s story drives home Picoult’s point—that practically nothing has changed for women in society. Men still seek to “best” us, even when we try to fight against the patriarchy.

All in all, By Any Other Name is a fantastic read. Jodi Picoult delivers as always!

Acknowledgments

Thanks to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine | Ballantine Books, and the author for a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review. The expected publication date for this book is 20 August 2024.