Early this month, while on the journey to deliver Daughter Gray to summer music camp, I found a couple of British paperback novels. One was on the rack at the Amherst Salvation Army Thrift Store, the other on the dollar shelf at a used book shop in South Hadley. Neither is on the menu of my usual reading fare, but with several more long trips looming I picked them up to taste. They're:

Both Wise Virgin and The Girls are rich in imagery and both are quite well-written. Wilson knows his stuff re medievalism, and his depictions of the infinitesimal teapot tempests of academia are charming, reminiscent of Lucky Jim (Kingsley Amis's first novel). Bowen, in turn, has a Tolkienesque vocabulary of garden and hedge, as well as a wry sense of situation.

Both books are raunchy in places, though not grotesquely so. Both rely on hugely improbable coincidence at key plot moments. Both also have singularly unsatisfying endings --- as though their authors were too "modern" to permit themselves a full, happy resolution of tension among their creations, and instead had to leave their readers wincing and head-scratching.

Maybe that's sophistication nowadays; I prefer to see things end on a more comfortable note. So although I enjoyed both novels and recommend them, I'm working on my own "director's cut" alternative conclusions for these stories, in the same way that Paulette [1] does for many modern movies that fail in their final scenes ...

TopicLiterature - TopicPersonalHistory - 2003-07-20

(correlates: YouCanHaveItAll, SelfConfidence, BetterFasterCheaper, ...)