I was thinking about doing a FFTA about unmarried women, because I’ve read a lot of those in the past year or so, and I imagine that one day I will – but I thought it might be more interesting, and more unusual, to select books about pairs of women. Because there turned out to be a few in my reviews archive. None of these are about romantic pairings (well… one could be, but it’s not overtly) but instead female friendships (and, er, unfriendships.) It’s a surprisingly rich and varied vein of the books I’ve read – well, five of them at least! – and I’d be interested to hear your suggestions. As always, the books don’t have to be novels – one of mine is not, for starters. On with the show!
In short: A dry, barbed, wonderfully strange account of Miss Goering and Mrs. Copperfield, whose eccentric lives only overlap for a few moments.
From my review: “In many ways the novel doesn’t follow any progression at all – the ladies merely experience a great deal, whether grasping at it enthusiastically or raising an ambivalent eyebrow at life. Bowles’ astonishing talent is creating a dynamic that, if not unique, is highly unusual – strange, surreal, and yet grounded to the mundane. Her ear for dialogue is astonishing – dialogue which is almost never realistic, but always striking.”
In short: Two artists live on an island together, in this set of calm vignettes.
From my review: “Each chapter has a small incident occur, and Jansson wraps her delicious prose around it. By the end she has provided a beautiful portrait of an unconventional couple, co-dependent and close rather than affectionate.”
In short: Half-sisters Daisy (30, shy, secretly a popular novelist under a pseudonym) and Daphne (25, self-assured intellectual) try to mingle in the same social circles, with mixed success.
From my review: “Though Keeping Up Appearances isn’t as funny as Crewe Train, nor quite as memorable, it does present a clever idea. Because, dear reader, I haven’t told you the central concept which surprises the reader and twists the interpretation completely, which comes about halfway through the novel.”
In short: Two women grow up together, but their friendship turns to rivalry…
From my review: “It’s a presentation of the rivalry between friends, and the damaging effects of jealousy – but a quirkier edge would have catapaulted the novel into a higher league. I’ve no idea how the quirkiness could have been added – but obviously Visman did, because she delivered it in Yellow.”
In short: well, it’s the letters of Joyce Grenfell and Virginia Graham!
From my review: “The exchange of letters between the two women spans many, many years, and offers a unique perspective upon the lives of each – life as they wished to convey it to their closest friend. Without the modesty (assumed or otherwise) requisite for autobiography, or the idolatry of biography, reading letters may feel a little like encroaching upon a friendship, but also allows closer and more genuine understanding of the women than available elsewhere.”
And…. over to you!