Selasa, 21 Agustus 2012

Five From the Archive (no.7)

I was thinking about doing a FFTA about unmarried women, because I've read a lot of those in the past year or so, and I imagine that one day I will - but I thought it might be more interesting, and more unusual, to select books about pairs of women.  Because there turned out to be a few in my reviews archive.  None of these are about romantic pairings (well... one could be, but it's not overtly) but instead female friendships (and, er, unfriendships.)  It's a surprisingly rich and varied vein of the books I've read - well, five of them at least! - and I'd be interested to hear your suggestions.  As always, the books don't have to be novels - one of mine is not, for starters.  On with the show!

Five... Books About Pairs of Women

1.) Two Serious Ladies (1943) by Jane Bowles

In short: A dry, barbed, wonderfully strange account of Miss Goering and Mrs. Copperfield, whose eccentric lives only overlap for a few moments.

From my review: "In many ways the novel doesn't follow any progression at all - the ladies merely experience a great deal, whether grasping at it enthusiastically or raising an ambivalent eyebrow at life.  Bowles' astonishing talent is creating a dynamic that, if not unique, is highly unusual - strange, surreal, and yet grounded to the mundane.  Her ear for dialogue is astonishing - dialogue which is almost never realistic, but always striking."

2.) Fair Play (1989) by Tove Jansson

In short: Two artists live on an island together, in this set of calm vignettes.

From my review: "Each chapter has a small incident occur, and Jansson wraps her delicious prose around it. By the end she has provided a beautiful portrait of an unconventional couple, co-dependent and close rather than affectionate."

3.) Keeping Up Appearances (1928) by Rose Macaulay

In short: Half-sisters Daisy (30, shy, secretly a popular novelist under a pseudonym) and Daphne (25, self-assured intellectual) try to mingle in the same social circles, with mixed success.

From my review: "Though Keeping Up Appearances isn't as funny as Crewe Train, nor quite as memorable, it does present a clever idea. Because, dear reader, I haven't told you the central concept which surprises the reader and twists the interpretation completely, which comes about halfway through the novel."

4.) Sex Education (2002) by Janni Visman

In short: Two women grow up together, but their friendship turns to rivalry...

From my review: "It's a presentation of the rivalry between friends, and the damaging effects of jealousy - but a quirkier edge would have catapaulted the novel into a higher league. I've no idea how the quirkiness could have been added - but obviously Visman did, because she delivered it in Yellow."

5.) Joyce & Ginnie: the letters of Joyce Grenfell and Virginia Graham (1997)

In short: well, it's the letters of Joyce Grenfell and Virginia Graham!

From my review: "The exchange of letters between the two women spans many, many years, and offers a unique perspective upon the lives of each - life as they wished to convey it to their closest friend. Without the modesty (assumed or otherwise) requisite for autobiography, or the idolatry of biography, reading letters may feel a little like encroaching upon a friendship, but also allows closer and more genuine understanding of the women than available elsewhere."

And.... over to you!

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