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Two Serious Ladies Paperback – 24 Jun 2010

3.1 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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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: 13 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 241,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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By P. G. Harris VINE VOICE on 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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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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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book reminded me rather of Malcolm Lowry's Under The Volcano in style. Very self consciously modern (as in the literary period) and rather death obsessed. The story, such as it is, revolves around two monied, society women who choose for whatever reasons to live outside of societal mores. Christina Goering a woman with a religious mania, surrounds herself with companions who love and loathe her in equal measure, and drags them off to live in a ramshackle house in the woods where everyone drives each other mad. Mrs Copperfield goes to South America with her husband and when she gets to Panama decides to strike off without him. She spends all her time drinking gin with local prostitutes and falling madly in love with a sixteen year old girl called Pacifica.

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.
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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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