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38 Reviews
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars succint in style and interesting
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...
Published on 23 Dec 2010 by Ms. Margherita Muller

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The utter pointlessness of everything
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...
Published on 30 Dec 2011 by Lady Fancifull


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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The author's own story is more interesting!, 25 May 2010
By 
Ms. Felicia Davis-burden (Staines, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Two Serious Ladies (Paperback)
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I'm afraid I'm deeply disappointed with this book: The introduction - essentially a potted biography of Jane Bowles - is much more interesting than the novel itself. I hoped that the author's restless, adventurous spirit would be expressed in a story full of decadence. That's what the blurb and the introduction promise.

Unfortunately, there is far too much meandering dialogue between characters by whom I cannot feel fascinated. I would rather spend time getting to know Bowles through a proper biography.

Many 'cult' novels have proved anti-climatic, and this is another. It's just not a thrill for me.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars, 7 Oct 2014
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I'm afraid neither of these seriously eccentric women appealed to me. Well written though.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Freaks and outlaws", 23 May 2010
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Two Serious Ladies (Paperback)
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This is a difficult book to review since it is essentially, and intentionally, plotless. Both the characters and the story itself are random, bizarre and essentially meaningless. I assume Bowles intended this to be a textual rejection of the ideas of the coherent personality as well as consistent, rational and lucid narrative - and she certainly succeeds.

This is a world peopled by strange and freakish people who do and say things on whims that are completely opaque. Conversations are disconnected as if the participants are speaking to different people, and the overall feel is of a strange alienation, where true communication or intimacy or even connection is impossible. Everyone is estranged from the world around them yet play at a kind of bourgeois and simultaneously anti-bourgeois game.

Written in the late 1930s, this is very odd and very modern, indeed post-modern. It's clever but not something I would describe as an enjoyable read. Certainly if you like traditional stories with plots and characters then this is one to avoid at all costs.

The edition is beautifully-produced with an introduction by Lorna Sage and a memoir by Truman Capote. Worth a read if you like post-modern literary writing.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for me, 31 Aug 2010
By 
Doug "Doug" (York, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Two Serious Ladies (Paperback)
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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.

I so wanted this to be what the jacket promised, to be some of the finest American literature, however this is the first book in a long, long time to leave me cold.

I can't say much more as I have not been able to get past the first third of the book and have been waiting for something, anything to happen.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Had to admit defeat with this one...!, 3 Aug 2010
By 
C. O'Brien (Scotland, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Two Serious Ladies (Paperback)
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I was attracted to this novel partly because of the names associated with it. This edition comes with a memoir of the author from that glittering and witty talent Truman Capote, and an introduction from Lorna Sage, one of our greatest female academics (as well as one of my own ex-tutors from university). Jane herself was married to Paul Bowles, who wrote the lovely Sheltering Sky. The notion of an obscure masterpiece from a such a well-connected but semi-forgotten figure of the 1940s avant-garde piqued my interest.

Sadly however, the introduction and memoir proved much more interesting to read than the story itself which completely failed to hold my attention past the first few chapters. The style was not so much experimental as stiff and clumsy - the plot uninvolving, the characters unsympathetic. After persevering with it as bedtime reading for almost a week, I found only that it made an excellent and speedy soporific.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Women "seeking the dirt", 3 July 2010
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Four Violets (Hertford UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Two Serious Ladies (Paperback)
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Rich Miss Goering takes on a strange female companion and turns her back on convention, seeking out odd encounters with strangers; while Mrs Copperfield leaves her husband to live in a brothel. Published when Jane Bowles was 26, this book reads like a stilted translation and treads an uneasy line between genius and craziness. As in a dream sequence the women move through a grotesque world where men dominate and control women, or are weak and ineffectual. Women live in hysterical fear of petty issues, while living their lives with no concerns as to consequence or conscience.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two femmes fatales go their own way, 29 Jun 2010
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Amazon Customer (Wells, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Two Serious Ladies (Paperback)
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Christina Goering, daughter of a rich and distinguished family is a difficult child. Driven by her fervent imagination she flits between cultish fads, dragging other children into her worlds, children who can't comprehend and therefore cordially dislike her.

As a grown woman, she lives in a smart house outside of New York - it's the early 1940s. Soon, however we find her abandoning luxury to live with her lady companion and a couple of male admirers in a cheap leased house on a run-down island downwind of a nasty industrial town with glue factories. Soon she is visiting the roughest dives, making out with the local tough guys and finally allowing herself to be picked up by a gangster.

Her friend Mrs Frieda Copperfield has a puppyish dolt of a husband, endlessly battily curious, self-centred and lacking all common sense (an INTP I'm afraid). They go to Panama where Mrs Copperfield ends up befriending a local prostitute, Pacifica and living in the "hotel" in the red-light district where the prostitutes conduct their business with visiting sailors.

Various adventures befall Mrs Copperfield and the people she meets and finally she returns to New York with Pacifica and meets up again with Christina Goering. This time at a restaurant where the gangster is conducting his business. And there the novel ends.

Jane Bowles wrote this when she was 26. She was already a bohemian, bisexual, hanging out with W.H. Auden and Gipsy Rose Lee. The novel is billed as a cult classic, her masterpiece: I was therefore very curious myself as to how it would measure up.

To start with, the book is a very easy read. The two women's narratives are told in parallel with linear plot development and short sentences. It's at once apparent that the characters are not meant to be real people: they're archetypes of a kind of intellectual anomie, people who are there to show and work out strategies of alienation. The two serious women of the title are not well-differentiated: I would say that Frieda Copperfield is Christina Goering with competence turned down and neuroticism turned up. In Myers-Briggs parlance, they're both ENFPs.

What is striking about both women is that they pursue their counter-cultural life-choices with absolutely no thought of the consequences. A rough type (Andy) after being involved in a brawl says to Miss Goering "It would please me in the midst of all this horror to go to bed with you. But in order to do this we'll have to leave this bar and go to my apartment." "Well, I can't promise you anything but I will be glad to go to your apartment" Miss Goering replies. And nothing bad happens to her (or Frieda) - ever. Nobody hits them, rapes them, steals from them or even swears at them.

So I saw this novel in the end as Jane Bowles playing with personal scenarios of rootlessness, the excitement and novelty of random sexual encounters, the accumulation of novel experiences for their own sake: and most of all, a complete and enduring lack of personal emotional commitment. So although as a literary accomplishment this book is merely so-so, as a view of the personal drives and demons of the very-unusual Jane Bowles it's very interesting indeed.

Note: the subject matter might suggest this is a very prurient book, full of shockingly explicit sexual scenes. But in fact everything is merely hinted at - the most overt description is when the gangster puts his hand on Miss Goering's knee (having taken her for an up-market prostitute).
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel like no other - original and brilliant, 24 Jun 2010
By 
M. Ellingham "Mark Ellingham" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Two Serious Ladies (Paperback)
First published in 1943, Two Serious Ladies is a true one-off - daring and original, with deadpan humour and devastating insights. It was Jane Bowles's masterpiece and, as Ali Smith notes in her review, "readers who've not yet read Jane Bowles are almost to be envied, like people who've still to read Mansfield or Woolf, and have all the delight, the shock of classic originality, the revelation of such good writing, still to come." But it is not a novel like other novels. Not everyone will respond to its eccentricities and idiosyncratic style. For my part, I'd swap it for the entire contemporary bestseller list.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather dated................, 2 Jun 2010
By 
Saturnicus "Saturnicus" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Two Serious Ladies (Paperback)
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This book was a good enough read, and not very long, but it does not appeal to my particular taste and was rather wasted on me. The characters all seem to have minds which are up in the clouds and there is something airy-fairy about the whole scene. There are strong lesbian overtones - perhaps I am wrong - and the males were all rather homophobic. There is an interesting biography of Jane bowles at the start which had more going for it than her novel. Still, I daresay it was ice-breaking for its era, but lacks something today.
I waited in anticipation for something exciting to happen - their blood mangled corpses to be found in the harbour or something like that.....but no.
It is short enough to be worth a peruse, but for me it was not memorable. Had I not had to read it for Amazon, I would not have picked it up in a bookshop.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Two Serious Ladies - 88 (Underscore), 7 Sep 2010
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A. Miles (Al Khor, Qatar) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Two Serious Ladies (Paperback)
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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 to put down the very slim body of prose on which her literary reputation rests: This book, a play and a handful of short stories.

At the time, critical response to her work ranged from bafflement to indifference. However, a few influential writers - who, coincidentally, all seemed to be close personal friends of hers - portrayed her as a genius, and consequently 'Two Serious Ladies' has attained cult status, being reprinted many times over the years. This beautifully-produced new paperback edition contains photographs and a couple of supporting essays.

For myself, (and I would venture to say for the majority of readers)it's very difficult to grasp what enthusiasts have seen in the book: 'TSL' is clumsily and amateurishly written, seemingly by a precocious 12 year old girl, the prose so stilted and stodgy that it's a real effort to read more than a few pages at once. Essentially plotless, it describes the misadventures of the two titular characters as they get themselves into odd scrapes. It's been described as 'surrealist' but that implies a degree of artistic purpose that I can't see in the book.

So, no, not for me. I might be missing something, but, as I've said, I imagine the vast majority of readers will miss that something too.
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Two Serious Ladies (Peter Owen Modern Classic)
Two Serious Ladies (Peter Owen Modern Classic) by Jane Bowles (Paperback - 26 Aug 2003)
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