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.
A cult classic, beautifully reissued, with a foreword by Paul Bowles and memoir by Truman CapoteSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
New to Jane Bowles - bought one collection of stories and decided to buy another - great readPublished 15 months ago by debbie
I'm afraid neither of these seriously eccentric women appealed to me. Well written though.Published 21 months ago by Rosamund
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 morePublished on 15 May 2013 by P. Caro
'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 morePublished on 25 Sept. 2012 by Purpleheart
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 morePublished on 30 Aug. 2012 by Andrew Sutherland
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 morePublished on 23 May 2012 by Rotgut
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 morePublished on 25 Nov. 2011 by Eagles
The story of Christina Goering and Frieda Copperfield, who meet at a New York party, both looking for social escape, and self determination. Read morePublished on 21 Dec. 2010 by Londonist