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My Sister's Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles

4.19  ·  Rating Details  ·  489 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
Though she wrote only one novella, one short play, and fewer than a dozen short stories over a roughly twenty-year span from the early 1940s to the mid-1960s, Jane Bowles has long been regarded by critics as one of the premier stylists of her generation. Enlivened at unexpected moments by sexual exploration, mysticism, and flashes of wit alternately dry and hilarious, her ...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published September 19th 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1966)
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Chronicles, Vol. 1 by Bob DylanHowl and Other Poems by Allen GinsbergOn the Road by Jack KerouacA Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence FerlinghettiMemoirs of a Beatnik by Diane di Prima
104th out of 106 books — 6 voters
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13th out of 17 books — 7 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,296)
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Jun 18, 2015 Sketchbook rated it really liked it
Stylized off-tilt comedy. Makes you feel - cx, makes me feel - uncomfortable. Like sitting next to a beautiful crazy on a train or plane :

"Want some candy ?"
"No, thank you."
"I don't have any candy, but I will take my clothes off."

You can't move away becos there are no other seats.

Jane Bowles is lauded x Pinter, Ten Williams, Capote. And there's excess wonderfulnessy. What I find interesting is how she influenced Messrs. Edwards Albee and Gorey.

Jane and Libby Holman were great friends. Libby f
Vienna X
Jun 17, 2009 Vienna X rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I was hoping to give this collection more stars, but I have to be honest in that I just "liked it," not "really liked it." I appreciate Jane Bowles taking risks and going off the beaten path with her wacky characters, but in the end, I wasn't sure what I had gained. To be fair, I only read the novel "Two Serious Ladies" and the story "Camp Cataract" from this collection. Both are similar in style (very dialog-heavy with little internal reflections) and subject matter (peculiar women who don't pa ...more
May 12, 2009 Walter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Her original sin was being a singular voice. As she commits the biggest sin you can as an artist: she treats the “immoral” in regards to social convention as being normal; which it is, was, and always will be; and writes about life and people, their heart, their mind, and their dreams, as it is, but as it can’t be; but not with the eye of cynic, but with the eye of a poet that has a brain. People say they like writers who “don’t judge”. People say lots of things that are nonsense. As by their pr ...more
Feb 17, 2010 Jimmy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The moment when they might have felt tenderness had passed, and secretly they both rejoiced"

A novel, a play, and a handful of short stories. So funny, so sad. I really loved her novel, which I reviewed separately on here. Her stories were good too. I really liked "Going to Massachusetts" and "A Stick of Green Candy". I wasn't crazy about the play, though it was pretty good.

I just read some of the other reviews on here and this description made me laugh: 'There are a lot of cases when the charac
Jun 11, 2009 Nathanimal rated it it was amazing
I love this book so much I'm starting over with a pencil.
Apr 21, 2015 Chaserrrr rated it it was amazing
Discovering Jane Bowles is one of the best things to happen to me as a reader. I first read "Two Serious Ladies" after John Waters glowing recommendation in his book "Role Models" and finding out that Tennesse Williams considered it his favourite novel for a time. I devoured it in one sitting and for awhile every book I read after seemed so simply structured and the characters within were such predictable bores. I needed more!! But what to do? "Two Serious Ladies" was her only novel.
I eventuall
David Gallin-Parisi
Jul 30, 2011 David Gallin-Parisi rated it really liked it
Shelves: halfway
Puzzling, stories about serious characters. Serious, meaning the characters' enjoyment flows from some place, some wish, or some spiritual-searching that I cannot locate. Deeply interested and involved, addressing grave and earnest states, the women in these stories choose paths toward uncertainty and unpredictable desires. Nomadic is another descriptor for Bowles' writing, never staying in one place too long. I want to give this a lower rating, but feel compelled to go back to Bowle's writing w ...more
Jun 05, 2007 Ryan rated it liked it
Joy Williams writes the intro to this collection, and I can see why she reveres Bowles. The biting humor is similar, the sense of alienation, the way weird shit just happens to the protagonists. Both authors' plots are compilations of madcap episodes which, if they do add up, do so in a way that I sure as hell can't fully comprehend.

I only read Two Serious Ladies so far (which is why I bought the collected works in the first place), and I admire the risks Bowles took, but I got antsy two thirds
Meg Tuite
Dec 17, 2015 Meg Tuite rated it it was amazing
If you haven't read Jane Bowles, especially "Two Serious Ladies," than you are missing out on some of the best dialogue EVER! It's hilarious and I've read it a few times and it never loses its power! I hope anyone who reads this would consider buying a copy of her collection which is exceptional!
Simon A. Smith
Jul 11, 2007 Simon A. Smith rated it really liked it
This fell just short of 5 stars for me. It was a supremely enjoyable read. I tend to love writers who bring a lot of buoyancy and playfulness to their prose. The fact that Bowles took herself very seriously, makes these stories all the more sincere and inspired. "Two Serious Ladies" carries this collection, but there are definitely some hidden gems and you'd do well to pick this one up and give it a shot. If you are at all familiar with Joy Williams, she writes the introduction and states her re ...more
Feb 06, 2016 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Paul by: Karen Bowman
Jane Bowles' work is so complex, and so enjoyable to me. Especially since I read in her biography how she struggled with every single word she wrote. It was nice to revisit this book.
Nov 13, 2012 Jessica rated it liked it
After reading Jane Bowles' novella "Two Serious Ladies" I decided to go ahead and read her collected works. This is sort of a cheat because the first two hundred pages are that said novella so I was a third of the way done with the collection before I even started. The second third was a play "In The Summer House" and then a bunch of short stories, some of which were never completed but were found among her writings and included. You can't really tell they're not completed though since these are ...more
Aug 13, 2008 Amy rated it really liked it
Just finished the first book, "Two Serious Ladies." My first reaction was just that I was so surprised that it ended when it did. Christina Goering is our main lady and we are first introduced to her in juxtaposition with her more proper sister. Then as an independently wealthy adult, she moves into a house in the country with a woman and a male friend and continues to move further and further away from her beginnings to cities, slumming around with random men, etc. A long section is also spent ...more
Robert Vaughan
Jan 18, 2016 Robert Vaughan rated it it was amazing
Jane Bowles is one of the most entertaining writers in the American canon. And she was the wife of Paul Bowles, who shot to fame with The Sheltering Sky. Still, her own short stories, plays, and strange pieces have so much merit. They also lived as ex-pats in Morocco, and both had relationships outside of their marriage with same sexes. Okay, maybe that is too much information? But how much of our outside life informs our writing? In this case, Jane shines through much of her confirming illnesse ...more
Feb 14, 2015 Amy rated it really liked it
I can't really place Jane Bowles. I know she was married to Paul Bowles and they lived in Tangiers.
Her work - especially 2 Serious Ladies - is rather racy for the time, or maybe I'm wrong and just haven't been reading the right stuff.
Since I've now read her entire catalogue, I'm going to look for a good biography.
Jeni Brown
Jan 20, 2015 Jeni Brown rated it liked it
Glad to have discovered Jane Bowles and certainly concur that she is an original stylist. I found her writing to be unexpected and interesting in the context of the time and environment in which she was writing. But my appreciation of it is somewhat academic, hence only 3 stars. Unless approaching these works from such an academic point of view, I think many people would be somewhat disappointed.
Finished the short story Two Serious Ladies this weekend for a book club. Very erratic and unique story. I found this story to be very autobiographical of what I would think of Jane Bowles life. These women kind of fluttered about forming attachments with complete strangers quickly and seemed to be a little needy. I would have liked them to be on a journey to discover themselves without having to merge with another but maybe that is just my personal preference although it is much harder to live ...more
Kim Wyatt
Aug 17, 2012 Kim Wyatt rated it really liked it
I was really digging "Two Serious Ladies" and then it abruptly ended. I wanted more, but will have to go back and read it again. Synopsis: Two women of a certain age in a certain time unravel. No one is listening to them, or seeing them, and they strike out on their own, not knowing where they are going or how to get there. A strange and haunting story, it evokes a time when women had few choices and were branded as strange or hysterical if they didn't step in formation. And "Two Serious Ladies" ...more
Haven't read the short stories yet, jut the novella which feels like it was written by a very young woman with no experience with men.
Mar 26, 2014 Tobias rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2014
"Two Serious Ladies" and "Camp Cataract" are pretty stunning, and the whole thing falls into the "like nothing I've read before" category.
Laura  Yan
Feb 22, 2015 Laura Yan rated it really liked it
Fantastic. Jane Bowles is a genius. Inventive, surprising. Her characters are unhappy and uncomfortable, getting into unlikely, ridiculous antics, saying the darnest things. It's a little perverse and quite brilliant. The language, the stories, what's left unsaid. The characters are quickly and perfectly sketched, the details and dialogue are stunning. I remember reading "A Stick of Green Candy" a few years ago and feeling startled, confused. It's a similar feeling reading this collection--and I ...more
Jun 25, 2009 Wendy rated it really liked it
hmmm. i wanted to love this collection of her works. her writing is so involved with the relationships b/t people, especially women. the action lies b/t people, intriguing and unexpected responses to situations and her characters never do (act) what you think they will. that is where the greatness lies. but the reading can get a little tedious, which is what kept me from falling in love with her writings. and perhaps, reading paul bowles prior to jane bowles - as their styles/subject matter is/a ...more
Donald Krieger
Jan 03, 2008 Donald Krieger rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to understand my sensibilities.
Recommended to Donald by: David Schweitzer

How do I tell you about Jane Bowles writing ? Wife of Paul Bowles (strangest marriage ever!), her work either drives you crazy or you fall in love. There is no middle ground, I'm afraid. Her characters are quirky, odd beyond belief...her stories have odd twists and turns, yet it all rings true... If you are a fan of Paul Bowles you will find her work to be 180
degrees from his. Yet they somehow work together, as the marriage did somehow.

Truly a unique voice.
Sep 03, 2007 Karen rated it it was amazing
I read this book with my heart in my throat the entire time. The action in the stories is, overall, quite slow but there's an underlying sense of menace and violence at all times. I kept expecting everything to go completely to shit, and presume it did after the story ended. See how I think something happened after these pieces of fiction ended? That's what I'm saying. The edition I read has an intro by Truman Capote, which made it all the better.
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Jan 02, 2010 Audra (Unabridged Chick) rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Doris Lessing and Djuna Barnes
Did I like this book? Maybe?

I couldn't stand reading her yet I couldn't stop. The writing is amazing: her characters are fascinating and repulsive; at times, I felt sympathetic toward them, even when they said or did horrifying things. At times I would say I hated this book, and then rave about it for ten minutes. I'm still not sure if I 'enjoyed' it, but I certainly was challenged.

I was reminded a bit of Doris Lessing and Djuna Barnes.
Allison Floyd
After a pathetic attempt to read the novel (ten pages, I think I made it through), a couple scenes from the play, one short story completed, a disturbing--if mercifully brief--puppet narrative slogged through, and the rest of the stories half-assedly attempted, I have to conclude that Jane Bowles = not my bag. However, upon reading the Goodreads author bio, I quickly became a fan of her life. This always happens to me with authors.
Vicki Wilson
Oct 01, 2015 Vicki Wilson rated it it was amazing
A simply stunning read.
May 19, 2014 Carmen rated it it was amazing
Unbelievably excellent. Two Serious Ladies, Bowles' only novel, is surprising, funny, and gorgeous. Of the rest of Bowles' work in this book, "Camp Cataract" was a standout story for me - perfectly plotted with a gut-punch ending. Highly recommended.
Sep 27, 2010 aya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to aya by: Chris Jacobson
(still haven't read the play and a few of the short stories)

There is so much beauty, sadness, and humor in these works, especially Two Serious Ladies. Her strangeness is completely foreign yet totally relateable. I love the sense of fun being incorporated into what must be done, how one must live her life...what a strange and sad thing, yet powerful, that you must always look out for yourself first.
Nov 20, 2007 Ed rated it it was amazing
I was obsessed with ms. bowles for a while and got to go through some of their archives in Austin, specifically Jane's last journals from Morocco. I found a completely different version of Camp Cataract and notes about Cherifa and a picture of a sad and beautiful life. Also, the secodn section of Two Serious Ladies has been an inspiration to my life to this day. Such crippled talent.
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Born Jane Sydney Auer, Jane Bowles's total body of work consists of one novel, one play, and six short stories. Yet John Ashbery said of her: "It is to be hoped that she will be recognized for what she is: one of the finest modern writers of fiction in any language." Tennessee Williams called her the most underrated writer of fiction in American literature. During her lifetime and since her death ...more
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“This did not in any way alter her intention of accomplishing her mission; on the contrary; it seemed to her all the more desperately important now that she was almost certain, in her innermost heart, that her trip was a failure. Her attitude was not an astonishing one, since like many others she conceived of her life as separate from herself; the road was laid out always a little ahead of her by scared hands, and she walked down it without a question. This road, which was her life, would go on existing after her death, even as her death existed while she still lived.” 3 likes
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