Jane's Reviews > The Queen of the Tambourine

The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam
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Dec 27, 08

Read in November, 2008

I stayed with this for about 80 pages. I wanted to like it more -- it's an epistolary novel; it's funny; and it came recommended by one of my favorite reader/friends (Ted), who turned me on to Mrs. Caliban and other good books where the line between reality and otherworldness is blurred.

So... how did the book fall out of my favor? Well, number one, it's a one-sided epistolary novel: the protagonist narrator, a woman slowly losing her mind, writes all the letters to her former next-door neighbor, a supposed friend who may never have been her friend at all, and there is no return correspondence. Moreover, I realized that I prefer an unreliable narrator who has a foothold in sanity, and not an unreliable narrator who is mentally ill. Perhaps, too, an unreliable, unstable narrator works in a prose novel like Lolita (or Mrs. Caliban), and less so in letter form, because in straight prose, there seem to be more layers of narration (including subtle appearances by the author him/herself) and less so in the letters, which narrowly emanate from one voice.

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