Library Journal, Best Books of 2017, Historical Fiction

Bustle, The 17 Best Debut Novels by Women in 2017

Amazon, Best Books of May 2017 in Literature/Fiction

Book Club Books 2017, selected for InStyle UK by Erin Woodward, who runs one of the largest book clubs in the world, the international Girly Book Club

Ingram Title Alert, Reading Group Suggestion for May

Pure Wow Book Club, Books to Read in May 

Barnes and Noble, Nook Book READOUTS in Fiction


In a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks, [Benton] seamlessly weaves accurate historical detail as well as disturbing societal norms into the protagonist’s struggles. . . . [What a] monumental accomplishment the novel achieves.
— KIRKUS REVIEWS, March 2017

Semifinalist, Goodreads Choice Awards 2017

Sixteen BOOK BUB lists, including these: 

  •  18 New Historical Fiction Novels to Read with Your Book Club
  •  The Most-Anticipated Books of Summer 2017
  • These Are the Most Popular Books of 2017
  • 24 Breakthrough Books of 2017

Benton’s heartrending debut novel . . . offers a distressing window into the intersections of motherhood, independence, faith, and class at a time when even affluent white women had little control over their lives. Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.
— PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, March 2017
★ Starred review
Benton has written a captivating, page-turning, and well-researched novel about the power of a mother’s love and the stark reality of the choices she must make. VERDICT A great choice for book clubs and readers of Geraldine Brooks.
— Susan Santa, LIBRARY JOURNAL, April 2017
You would be hard-pressed to find a more intimate—even revolutionary—depiction of the emotional and sensory experiences of motherhood. . . . (Lilli) enters not only readers’ hearts, but also their minds, through her distinctive, questioning voice.
— Patricia Sullivan, UMASS MAGAZINE, August 2017
A powerful, authentic voice for a generation of women whose struggles were erased from history. A heart-smashing debut that completely satisfies.
— Jamie Ford, bestselling author of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET
Benton has written a powerful work steeped in history, one that highlights the sacrifices, and rich rewards, of being a mother.
— Erin Kodicek, Amazon's "Best Books of the Month," OMNIVORACIOUS, May 2017
Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth and Margaret Sanger all made their mark as early American feminists, whether fighting for voting rights, birth control, an end to slavery or better opportunities in general for women. Had she been real, Lilli de Jong would have been a kindred spirit.
— Steve Pfarrer, AMHERST BULLETIN and DAILY HAMPSHIRE GAZETTE, June 2017
A stunning ode to motherhood. LILLI DE JONG reminds us that there is no formula to being a good mother. Love is the essential ingredient, and only it gives everlasting life to our legacies. A debut of robust heart that will stay with me for a very long time.
— Sarah McCoy, bestselling author of THE MAPMAKER'S CHILDREN
A gorgeous paean to the courage and ferocity of a mother’s love, Lilli de Jong pays homage to the solace of writing through troubling times and will haunt readers long after its denouement.
— Jaclyn Fulwood, SHELF AWARENESS, April 2017
She is a full-fledged heroine, persevering despite seemingly insurmountable odds. . . . her voice is distinctive, her fierceness driven by a mother’s love.
— Bridget Thoresen, BOOKLIST, April 2017
A confident debut . . . Sentence by carefully-crafted sentence, Benton ensnares the reader.
— Martha Anne Toll, THE MILLIONS, March 2017
In detailing the suffering of these women, Benton reminds us that they don’t exist in just the past. Unfortunately, this mindset continues today. Victims are blamed for their situations. . . . Unwanted pregnancies, sexual health, and ob/gyn care are treated as moral issues rather than medical ones. These are still considered a women’s issue, rather than an issue for both women and men. . . . Is Benton’s writing about breastfeeding a political act? Probably. When legislation needs to be enacted to protect a woman’s right to feed her child in a public space. When the Pope has to come out and say that it is acceptable for a mother to nurse her child in church.
— Susan Barr-Toman, LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS
Janet Benton’s remarkable novel LILLI DE JONG is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold, though reader, be warned—Lilli’s story may break your heart.
— Valerie Martin, author of 11 novels including MARY REILLY and PROPERTY, winner of the Orange Prize
Beautifully written, emotionally resonant, and psychologically astute . . . Benton turns a laser eye to her subject, exposing the sanctimony, hypocrisies, and pervasive sexism that kept women confined and unequal in the Victorian era—and that still bedevil many women today. A gripping read.
— Christina Baker Kline, #1 NYT bestselling author of ORPHAN TRAIN and A PIECE OF THE WORLD
As Lilli’s ideas of the world expand, a thread of conscious intersectional feminism emerges as a kind of thought process that can be learned. A brilliantly quiet novel with a spine of steel.
— Ilana Masad, "RIF’s Favorite Reads of May 2017," Read It Forward
Writing with a historical eye akin to Geraldine Brooks and incisive prose matching that of Anthony Doerr . . . an unforgettable and important reflection on the maternal and ultimately the human bond. Stunning!
— Pam Jenoff, bestselling author of THE KOMMANDANT'S GIRL and THE ORPHAN'S TALE
Lilli’s fight to craft her own life and nurture her bond with her baby are both devastatingly relevant—and achingly beautiful. A stunning read about the fierceness of love.
— Caroline Leavitt, bestselling author of CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD
LILLI DE JONG is deeply moving and richly imagined, both tragic and joyous. . . . It’s not only a compelling, beautifully crafted historical novel, however: it’s also important. As a single young woman desperate to hold onto her baby, Lilli’s life-and-death struggle is shockingly common to women even today. This will be an excellent novel for book clubs because there is so much in it that is relevant, so much to learn and discuss.
— Sandra Gulland, author of the internationally bestselling JOSEPHINE B. TRILOGY
Lilli de Jong is a virtual maternal hug of a novel that acknowledges the persistence of mothers everywhere.
— Helene Cohen Bludman, Books Is Wonderful
Benton has a degree in Religious Studies, and it shows. For a longtime bible student like myself, Benton’s questions and analysis show a respect for Christians often lacking in current literature, while questioning the areas that can be problematic.
— Maria Corley, BROAD STREET REVIEW
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Click above if you'd like to read Goodreads reviews on the Goodreads site. To ask Janet a question about Lilli de Jong on Goodreads, visit her page, scroll down the author profile to "Ask the Author," and ask.

Click above if you'd like to read Goodreads reviews on the Goodreads site. To ask Janet a question about Lilli de Jong on Goodreadsvisit her page, scroll down the author profile to "Ask the Author," and ask.

The administration building of Blockley Almshouse, West Philadelphia. Lilli makes many harrowing trips to the enormous almhouse compound, which closed in 1977. The University of Pennsylvania now occupies much of the property.

The administration building of Blockley Almshouse, West Philadelphia. Lilli makes many harrowing trips to the enormous almhouse compound, which closed in 1977. The University of Pennsylvania now occupies much of the property.

The debut novel LILLI DE JONG is almost a feminist version of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, targeting the treatment of women in the 1880s rather than slaughterhouses in the early 20th century. . . . [T]his is a story that needs to be told, especially today, as women’s reproductive rights are threatened again.
— Fran Hawthorne, NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS
Lilli is as spirited and determined as Jane Eyre, as sensible as Elinor Dashwood, and as downtrodden as Little Nell. Yet on the subjects of reproductive rights, affordable day care, and the cost of motherhood for women, the book speaks directly to readers today. . . . Benton, who has worked on documentary films and is an exhaustive researcher, provides a glorious, if dark, portrait of 19th-century Philadelphia. . . . These details vividly invoke the past, while Lilli’s fresh passion and insight give the book a voice that is lively and modern. Lilli de Jong is beautifully written and completely absorbing.
— Joanne Green, CLEAVER, Issue 18, June 5, 2017