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Two Serious Ladies [Paperback]

Jane Bowles
3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

24 Jun 2010
Few great writers produced less than Jane Bowles: one novel, one play and a dozen short stories. Yet hers is one of the most original, unique voices in twentieth century American literature. A novelist with an essentially tragic view, as Truman Capote concludes in his memoir, but also 'a very funny writer ... with at [her] heart the subtlest comprehension of eccentricity and human apartness.'Here, then, is a novel unlike any other. A tale of two extraordinary heroines - Christina Goering, a wealthy spinster in pursuit of sainthood, and Frieda Copperfield, who finds a home from home in a Panama brothel. And a book whose lesbian themes were startling on its original publication in 1943.

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Two Serious Ladies + Everything is Nice: Collected Stories, Fragments and Plays + The Sheltering Sky (Penguin Modern Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Sort of Books (24 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956003850
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956003850
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 13 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"'Readers who've not yet read Jane Bowles are almost to be envied, like people who've still to read Austen or Mansfield or Woolf, and have all the delight, the literary satisfaction, the shock of classic originality, the revelation of such good writing, still to come.' - Ali Smith"

Book Description

A cult classic, beautifully reissued, with a foreword by Paul Bowles and memoir by Truman Capote

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars succint in style and interesting 23 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is easy to read: short sentences, dialogues to the point - I can only think of Willa Cather and Albert Camus for comparison. The two ladies in question live outwith the rules of society in some ways - it is however a post war novel, and what may have seemed shocking then now barely raises an eyebrow, but it is a 'story' that takes the reader places that are unexpected, and this is why I liked it. I think however it may not appeal to everyone. Weird is one word that comes to mind. But fluent weirdness.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Serious Ladies 20 Aug 2003
Two Serious Ladies is a book I've read many times with the same curious delight at its absolute oddness. It has been my favourite book for a long time, but I keep giving my copies away to people. It is truly hard to describe, Jane Bowles was the most unique writer, her short stories and this short novel have the ability to infuriate and mystify the reader, eccentric is a word that comes to mind. In writerly terms she does a lot of things wrong and yet gets things so utterly right. I've never known another person who has read her, and I always wish that everybody had.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true original 27 Jun 2010
John Ashbery, reviewing The Collected Works of Jane Bowles back in 1967, wrote: 'in all her work, it is impossible to deduce the end of a sentence from its beginning, or a paragraph from the one that preceded it, or how one of the characters will reply to another. And yet the whole flows marvelously and inexorably to its cruel, lucid end.' This, I think, is the essence of Jane Bowles' very particular gift: each page gives the reader a succession of surprises, while maintaining an irresistible momentum. Two Serious Ladies is certainly not an ingratiating novel: it's something much more rewarding. This is a fine edition of a remarkable book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Odd and unique 18 Aug 2010
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I haven't read a book as quirky and profoundly odd as this for a long time.

It is the story of two middle class American women, Miss Goering and Mrs Copperfield. Miss Goering is a reasonably wealthy women who attracts an array of feckless and unappealing hangers on. During the course of the book she collects a strange coterie of misfits to live with her, moves out of her comfortable house into much less attractive accommodation and ends up (through choice) picking up unattractive men in a seedy bar.

Mrs Copperfield travels to Columbia with her wealthy husband where she quickly abandons him to her infatuation with the fading prostitute Pacifica.

Two factors combine to give the book its strangeness, firstly the fact that a frankly unappealing cast of characters behaves in bizarre and inexplicable ways, and secondly the functional matter-of-fact prose style.

That doesn't sound like much of a commendation , so why did I like this book? Again there are two main reasons. Firstly it is very funny in a dark and off beat way, with for example two of Miss Goerings hangers-on, Arthur and his father being both hilarious and deeply affecting characters. Secondly it is one of those novels which spark ideas in the reader's mind. It explores themes of the sterility of middle class life, of marital incompatability, of homo-eroticism, of ambition, of religious fanaticism and many more.

It is probably a book to beware of, it is unlikely to be a book you can just take or leave, you will either love it or loath it. However, if you are looking for something different and challenging, I'd recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The utter pointlessness of everything 30 Dec 2011
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a curious book: irritating, frustrating, but, once properly into reading it, oddly interesting, and then, finally - a feeling of release once finished. It follows the fortunes of two characters, the serious ladies of the title, who are acquaintances rather than deep friends .(though, to be honest, there seem to be no real relationships of meaning and emotional intimacy anywhere in the book)

At the start, the 2 acquaintances encounter each other at a cocktail party, on the eve of one of them frequently addressed by the other as 'little Mrs Copperfield' departing for a journey to Panama with her husband, whilst the second, Miss Christina Goering, is about to decamp from her rich abode, for no particular reason in order to rent a seedy dwelling out of the fashionable milieu, with 2 or 3 hangers on. The married lady is a lesbian,and is drawn to prostitutes; the unmarried one, without any particular interest, it seems, in sex, nevertheless drifts into meaningless encounters with men, and gets mistaken for a prostitute. They go their separate ways, and we follow each story. Each woman is rich, drinks heavily, is febrile, curiously rootless, weak-willed, selfish, inconsiderate, and exhausted (not to mention exhausting to the reader!). They meet up at the end in another meaningless encounter with each other. The world of the book is suffused with ennui - and yet there are enough sharply drawn moments, or moments when people come awake, briefly, before settling down back into torpor, to keep a thread of interest alive.

Like Carson McCullers, Bowles' characters are freakish, on the margins - but the lack of any real engagement, any real relationship, the utter pointlessness of the characters and their encounters becomes too much in the end.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An orriginal sin
Two Serious ladies is Jane Bowles only novel, more than enough as it can be read 20 times and get you to different conclusions each one of them. Read more
Published 15 months ago by P. Caro
3.0 out of 5 stars 'I have gone to pieces, which is a thing I've wanted to do for years,'
'Christina Goering's father was an American industrialist of German parentage and her mother was a New York lady of a very distinguished family. Read more
Published 23 months ago by purpleheart
3.0 out of 5 stars A fine piece of modernist American fiction that I almost missed
I really only ordered this because I like the author Paul Bowles, to whom Jane Bowles was married, which is a pretty terrible reason, but it turned out to be a smart move on my... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Andrew Sutherland
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Serious, Ladies
Glowing reviews on the jacket of this reissued novel refer to it as a classic and compare its author, Jane Bowles, to Jane Austen, amongst others. Read more
Published on 23 May 2012 by Rotgut
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming and delightful!
It's a long time since I've read this book but it has stay with me as one of my favorites. It a delightful journey through the prejudiced world of two very different ladies, who... Read more
Published on 25 Nov 2011 by Eagles
4.0 out of 5 stars Original, unpredictable, rather dreamlike novel
The story of Christina Goering and Frieda Copperfield, who meet at a New York party, both looking for social escape, and self determination. Read more
Published on 21 Dec 2010 by Londonist
3.0 out of 5 stars It's OK but...
Perhaps I have been spoilt by Persephone books whose reissued novels of 1940's ladies have got me into a provincial mentality, but I didn't enjoy this book. Read more
Published on 29 Nov 2010 by Angel Jem
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing in the extreme
Being recommended by Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote I was expecting a book full of dazzling wit and energy. I couldn't have been more wrong! Read more
Published on 6 Oct 2010 by Princess Mononoke
1.0 out of 5 stars Two Serious Ladies - 88 (Underscore)
Jane Bowles was a wealthy, well-connected bohemian: An alcoholic and a bisexual, as was the style at the time,between drinks and chasing Muslim ladies around Tangier she found time... Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2010 by A. Miles
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
I have been struggling as to how to review this book, which I have tried to get into on numerous occasions.

It just is not for me. Read more
Published on 31 Aug 2010 by Doug
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