Karla's Reviews > Storyville

Storyville by Lois Battle
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's review
Jul 14, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: eras-gilded-age-to-1900, historical-fiction, heroine-prostitute, eras-1920s-and-1930s, eras-early-20th-century
Read from July 09 to 13, 2012

IMO, Frank Yerby told a better yarn about New Orleans hooker life and the clash of societies and morals in his faux Victorian gloom-and-doomfest, The Girl From Storyville.

At least it was better written, in the sense of grabbing the reader and giving them a wonderfully retro narrative pulled off with quite some aplomb. It also had more vivid and engaging characters, even if by the end I wanted to hurl Fanny Turner off a cliff.

At least I felt something.

Battle's Storyville is a time-hopping tale about Kate Cavanaugh, a 15 year old farm girl who runs away from home and is seduced and abandoned in 1890s New Orleans by a salesman. She gets a job at a millinery (which is really a cattle yard for madams on the lookout for new flesh) and is taken in by a nasty madam, until she's rescued by a good-hearted madam. Meanwhile Kate has discovered she's pregnant.

One night Lawrence Randsome is brought to Kate's brothel for his going-off-to-war ritual cherry-popping and it's instaluv between the two. But Lawrence's mother, Julia - emancipated society matron from Boston currently suffering in the stifling Southern patriarchy - doesn't approve of the relationship. Or hookers or unpure love in general. In fact, her crusade to shut down Storyville and the discovery that her husband owns properties there is driving their marriage onto the rocks.

But then lots o' things happen and Julia and Kate are forced to associate through guilt and curiosity and whatnot. And some of Kate's habits die hard.

I dunno. I should have liked it, and in a way I did. It was an easy read with some quirky characters and some really good lines. (Beatrice Ravenal, Julia's confidante, and the drag queen madam Lady Caroline rocked.) The plot was pure soap opera - mmm mmm, my favorite! - but the suds had gone kinda flat.

Kate kinda annoyed me after a time. She becomes one of Storyville's most famed whores within days of arriving, the maternal Irish madam lets her get away with murder. Sure, she has a sucky hooker life at points, but she still came across as a real speshul snowflake. Blech.

The worst thing about it was the time-leaping, where years pass and we get all the things that happened (including character death) delivered to us in lumpy dumps of info. Even within the story itself a detail would prompt a huge spoonful of backstory or whatever the author felt we needed to know.

The last 100 pages limped along and I was ready for it to be done. The final scene (view spoiler) should have been much more powerful than it was.

I think it comes down to a personal preference as to whether one will enjoy this or not. I thought it was pretty tepid and superficial - sort of a more racy Oprah Book Club selection. But it might be the kind of yarn that tickles another's fancy.
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Quotes Karla Liked

“I once asked her if she got bored living alone, and she said, 'To say one is bored to be alone is to admit that one has no inner resources.”
Lois Battle, Storyville

Reading Progress

07/09/2012 page 80
16.0% "So far less depressing than Frank Yerby's Storyville saga, but that's a pretty low bar. :D" 3 comments
07/10/2012 page 120
24.0% "A very fun gallery-of-grotesques scene with a Meeting of the Madams, including "Lady Caroline" who is actually a cross-dresser. :D"
07/12/2012 page 307
62.0% "Somehow I have the feeling that the news of San Juan Hill isn't going to be ALL good for the Randsomes."

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Willow (new)

Willow Storyville always makes me think of the movie Pretty Baby.

Karla Funny you should mention that, because a blurb on the back says

"A decadent treat...A blend of Kate Chopin's feminist cult classic novel The Awakening and Louis Malle's dark film Pretty Baby." :P

Have read that book or seen that movie. Heard about them, though.

message 3: by Willow (new)

Willow Pretty Baby is kind of shocking, probably more so today than when it was made back in the seventies. It's about a twelve-year-old prostitute. At the beginning of the film they auction off her cherry. I was about the same age when I watched it on the late late show and I was horrified. I couldn't imagine having to let a bunch of pervy old men touch me. Eeeewww

message 4: by Misfit (new) - added it

Misfit Willowfaerie wrote: "Pretty Baby is kind of shocking, probably more so today than when it was made back in the seventies. It's about a twelve-year-old prostitute. At the beginning of the film they auction off her cher..."

I remember that one. I have this and the Yerby book someone on the ever expanding pile.

message 5: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah The last 100 pages limped along and I was ready for it to be done.

Weirdly enough, that's exactly what's going on in my current read. Okay, says I. Let's just FINISH IT, already.

p.s. Vikings are gone. :(

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