June: “Still Life With Monkey” by Katharine Weber

Still Life With Monkey by Katharine Weber

Our June 2019 Book of the Month

Katharine Weber is one of my favorite Literary Affairs’ writers and with her most recent novel, Still Life with Monkey she has written a book with the same elegance of prose, insight into character and interesting approach to life as she has done in her previous novels.

Her play on language and on life starts with the very title. What is a still life, what is life still? When we stare at a still life in a museum we meditate on what is being represented as meaningful and our focus is drawn to various elements in their stillness.

The portrait that Weber paints with words is a meditation as well and the presence of a monkey in her still life as in others has multiple meanings and I can see book clubs having very deep and meaningful discussions based on our June Book of the Month by Katharine Weber, Still Life with Monkey.


“Katharine Weber’s Still Life With Monkey is a beautifully wrought paean of praise for the ordinary pleasures taken for granted by the able-bodied. In precise and often luminous prose, with intelligence and tenderness, Weber’s latest novel examines the question of what makes a life worth living.”The Washington Post

“[A] deeply but delicately penetrating novel.”New York Times Book Review

Duncan Wheeler is a successful architect who savors the quotidian pleasures in life until a car accident leaves him severely paralyzed and haunted by the death of his young assistant. Now, Duncan isn’t sure what there is left to live for, when every day has become “a broken series of unsuccessful gestures.”

Duncan and his wife, Laura, find themselves in conflict as Duncan’s will to live falters. Laura grows desperate to help him. An art conservator who has her own relationship to the repair of broken things, Laura brings home a highly trained helper monkey ― a tufted capuchin named Ottoline ― to assist Duncan with basic tasks. Duncan and Laura fall for this sweet, comical, Nutella-gobbling little creature, and Duncan’s life appears to become more tolerable, fuller, and funnier. Yet the question persists: Is it enough?

Katharine Weber is a masterful observer of humanity, and Still Life with Monkey, full of tenderness and melancholy, explores the conflict between the will to live and the desire to die.


Katharine Weber is the author of five acclaimed novels ― True Confections, Triangle, The Little Women, The Music Lesson, and Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear ― and a memoir, The Memory Of All That: George Gershwin, Kay Swift, and My Family’s Legacy of Infidelities. Objects in Mirror, The Music Lesson, and The Little Women were all named Notable Books by The New York Times Book Review; two of her novels were long-listed for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and The Music Lesson has been published in twelve languages. Katharine holds the Thomas Chair in creative writing at Kenyon College.

© Literary Affairs, 2005-2024. All Rights Reserved.