I have now finished Pinkerton's Sister - but it has by no means finished with me! It's clearly one of those books which stay with one, long after reading. Alice has stayed in my mind as a personality I had met and cared about, and wanted to meet again. She didn't disappoint me, though I ached for her as well as continuing to delight in her ability to destroy the pomposity of her society in a few(?) well-chosen words and images. The description of the attack on Michaelangelo's David ( and his response) had me almost in tears with laughter. In fact, I don't remember when I last read a book that caused me to laugh out loud so much. Nearly 800 pages of her subversive humour was a joy. The literary references, the wordplay (I have a friend for whom a pun-box would be a good idea!), Alice's precision about punctuation, which puts Lynn Truss in the shade....she's a treasure. Mind you, I'm not sure I would like to meet her in real life: there are hints of the Jane Austen we see in the letters, where the caustic comments make one catch one's breath. It's not hard to see why the people she had to live among found her difficult!
I read only the first couple of pages of Part 3, and I was tense with anxiety for her, as the shadows drew round her. The change of mood is impressive, - and I almost wept for her and Annie, as I read the Pass the Parcel sections, while still shaking with laughter at the Celestial City. The way in which horror is sketched in, rather than being described in sordid detail, as is currently fashionable, is, I find, so much more powerful. However, I did not react against the gory detail of the description of the death of her father, as that, I could quite believe, was how she would have reacted, and consequently I did, too. The picture of that society which emerges from Alice's comments is fascinating. No wonder she escapes into literature - and yet it's not an escape, is it? Her reading has sharpened her mind and her ability to see through the hypocrisy. . The minor characters, sometimes only sketched in as Alice observes them, are in fact very convincing even when almost caricature (the dentist!), and the interplay of relationships within the various groups, both Alice's friends and the Comstock acolytes is very convincing
Part one could almost stand alone as a satirical portrait of any self-satisfied, self-righteous, prudish society. The whole is both immensely humorous, and immensely thought-provoking.