This is one of those rare novels that I just couldn’t like. A quote from the back synopsis states “This story of two stated women ‘going to pieces’ in their eccentric, disjointed ways has the hallucinatory power of an unavoidable dream.” What it doesn’t mention is that it’s more of an unavoidable bad dream than just a dream.
Overall, it seemed well written and it had plenty of humor, but I just couldn’t make myself like the characters or their situations. And I really wanted to like it when about half way through I found out that the author was good friends with Carson McCullers and Tennessee Williams, both of whom I love and truly brought Southern Gothic to life. It also didn’t help I kept wondering when the drag queens would show up based on the front cover.
Thankfully it was a short novel (only 200 pages), but I do feel bad because my boss gave this to me way back in September to read. I’m glad I didn’t read the back cover or I probably would’ve avoided it even longer, or just not read it! However, it does count towards my 2012 Mount TBR Reading Challenge, bumping that challenge up to 8/25 so YAY for that!
All I could think while reading Two Serious Women was that it reminded me a lot of A Confederacy of Dunces in style and characters and perhaps John Kennedy Toole read this novel before writing his, but either way they both are in the not-for-me pile. I also kept wondering to myself if Bowles’ was attempting to recreate the comedy of manners which many others have done much better, but decided she was more focusing on the ‘tragi-comic’ aspect of the two main character’s, Ms. Groening and Mrs. Copperfield, lives.
The novel wasn’t all bad however. There were a few great lines, but none more so than,
“We are living in a period when personal happiness means very little because the individual has very few moments left. It is wise to destroy yourself first; at least to keep only that part of you which can be of use to a big group of people. If you don’t do this you lose sight of objective reality and so forth, and fall plunk into the middle of a mysticism which right now would be a waste of time.” (142)
I think it really serves to highlight the time period when Bowles wrote Two Serious Ladies, late 1930s early 1940s, but remains pertinent to what’s happening in society today.
Recommendation: If your tastes align with mine, don’t read it. If you’re willing to try anything read it. The cover does warn you that it is one of the most misunderstood novels of all time and has only recently (in the late 1980s/early 1990s) begun to receive the praise it (apparently) deserved.
Opening Line: “Christina Goering’s father was an American industrialist of German parentage and her mother was a New York lady of a very distinguished family.”
Closing Line: “This latter possibility Miss Goering thought to be of considerable interest but of no great importance.” (Whited out.)