THE SOPRANOS by Alan Warner


Email this review


A defiantly abrasive tale by Scots author Warner (These Demented Lands, 1998, etc.) chronicles the misadventures of a sextet of teenaged Catholic schoolgirls seeking excitement and dissipation. The Sopranos, we—re told, was a commercial hit in England, and it’s easy to see why: the Belles of St. Trinian’s were obedient angels compared with the foulmouthed malcontents from our Lady of Perpetual Succor, where 27 girls got pregnant in one year; distracted Father Ardlui (a lapsed novelist) avoids unpleasant realities by distractedly imagining miracles; and much-despised Sister Pagan (“the Pagan”) and Condron (“Sister Condom”) strive womanfully to keep their disrespectful charges pure and holy. A group of the latter bond uproariously when the choir in which they sing travels to “the big, big city” for a musical competition. Warner nicely characterizes the girls in boisterous accounts of R-rated shopping trips, furtive boozing (they imbibe “alcoholic lemonade”), and heated pursuit—primarily at a disco called the Mantrap—of available men, whose shortcomings they nevertheless assess in high obscene style (“ . . . AIDS is the least of your worries wi those two dicks, more like Mad Cows Disease”). The novel’s tendency toward monotony is relieved by its roving fragmented structure (e.g., a long drunken conversation between Kay, who fears she’s pregnant, and Fionnula, who’s discovering she’s gay, both quickens the story’s pace and broadens its scope) and by several flashbacks that vividly personalize such otherwise blurry characters as (Ra)Chell, stunted by a legacy of incest, Kylah (singer with the rock band Lemonfinger), and Orla, whose grimly funny failed attempt at sex seems to embody the frustrations they’re all kicking back at. A little of this goes a long way, but Warner ends things smashingly with a seriocomic “all-nighter” featuring fireworks in toilets, “snogging” and “shagging” enough for all, followed by a happily unrepentant journey home.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-374-26670-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1999