- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Sort of Books; Main edition (24 Jun. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0956003850
- ISBN-13: 978-0956003850
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 20 cm
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 275,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Two Serious Ladies Paperback – 24 Jun 2010
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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)
A cult classic, beautifully reissued, with a foreword by Paul Bowles and memoir by Truman CapoteSee all Product description
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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.
Truman Capote was a huge fan of Jane Bowles' and wrote a brief essay about how wonderful she is, which accompanies this volume. I rate Capote highly as a writer, but cannot understand his fascination with Bowles. This book seemed messy, incomplete and badly put together. The two characters meet briefly at the beginning and end of the book but otherwise have nothing to do with each other and their stories merely accompany each other in the novel rather than contributing anything to each other. They seem to be simply snapshots of women who are disintegrating under the pressure of modern life but with little or no self awareness and I found the whole thing rather depressing and pointless.
The 'plot' follows the adventures of two ladies who are trying to break away from the traditional roles they find themselves in. One, Frieda Copperfield, goes on a trip to Panama with her husband but ends up living in a backstreet hotel surrounded by prostitutes; the other, Christina Goering, rejects her priveleged background and goes to live in an island shack and makes trips to the mainland where she hooks up with various men (some other reviews I have read mention that she becomes a high-class prostitute but I didn't find this implicit in the text). The overall theme, along with overtones of lesbianism, is of women trying to break away from their traditional roles, and decide their own directions and futures, but others, mainly the same class, are trying to pull them back into their expected roles, the people who live on the margins of society are less constrained by the rules of society and so seem to have more freedom and choice.
The style reminds me of a children's story, or fable, and it is not a difficult read, but it does feel unfinished. The success or failure of this novel's enjoyment will depend on whether you enjoy this style of writing. I personnally do not but some passages do have a certain humerous charm.
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