This book had me scratching my head throughout as does the mostly positive commentary on this board. The thing is, I'm not convinced that Ms Bowles caThis book had me scratching my head throughout as does the mostly positive commentary on this board. The thing is, I'm not convinced that Ms Bowles can actually write beyond a grade 4 writing composition level. The sentences are short, yet littered with comparative modifiers like "very" and "really". A hotel is described only as being "impressive" and a man's face has a "very beautiful shape". (As opposed to beautiful shape, I guess).
The book as a whole can be read as a primer on how not to write description, or authentic sounding dialogue, or characters with any kind of believable motivation. Things just happen randomly without much reason and no explanation of how or why. The two women themselves only meet coincidentally at the beginning and the very end. Their stories are never linked and there's no reason why this couldn't be two very short novellas, each called, "One Woman With no Apparent Reason for Doing All the Crazy Things She Does."
The only reason I kept reading to the end (aside from the fact it's very short) is because it was the writer's first (and only) novel, written when she was quite young, and so I held onto the false hope that she may have learned to write at the end. Nope. It's just as crude and underwritten at the end as at the start.
It would have been nice to at least seen some effort go into the writing so that once could get a sense of the labour that went into the composition. I like to have sensed that the story wasn't easily told and that some sweat and tears went into its creation.
To be fair there was one scene that I liked and made me think that the story could have been something and that writer maybe had a modicum of talent and knew what she was doing: an enchanting scene at the ocean between one of the ladies (Mrs Copperfield! a nod to Dickens? Why?)--and a young prostitute she has taken up with. Unfortunately the rest of the novel doesn't come close to this level.
I hate to be so critical of someone who had a somewhat tragic life but, really, the empress here has no clothes....more