As a huge fan of James Cain - Mildred Pierce and The Postman Always Rings Twice are two of my favourite books - I enjoyed The Cocktail Waitress, but not quite as much as I wanted to.
There's something about Joan that I couldn't like. She's had a tough time; her drunken husband has been killed and one particularly diligent police officer is convinced that she is responsible. She's penniless and friendless, and she's trying to get her child back from her sister-in-law. She takes a job earning money the only way she can, working as a cocktail waitress. Her cynical, older workmate Liz hints that there are ways of subsidising her wages by granting favours to customers, and although Jean has no lack of suitors she retains her sense of morality.
An elderly wealthy man falls in love with her and offers her the chance of a life of luxury and the means of getting back her child, but Jean cannot love him. Attracted to a younger man, she is torn between what to do for the best. Her choice leads to tragedy, and the book ends with a cruel sting in the tail - not entirely unpredictable to anybody who was around in the 1960s.
For all that Joan is deserving of sympathy and admiration, even Cain's writing does not compensate for the fact that I could not warm to any of the characters.
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