FOREIGN PARTS by Janice Galloway


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From the much-praised Scottish author Galloway (The Trick Is to Keep Breathing, 1994, etc.), an intermittently amusing warts-and-all story of two unmarried Scotswomen on a dreary French holiday, told in brittle flakes of self-consciously modern writing. Rona and Cassie are both in their 30s. Rona can drive the rattling automobile, Cassie can't; Rona smilingly finds a solution to various problems, Cassie sulkily thinks negative-but-true thoughts: ""...they would drink the coffee in silence, warding off the impending tip question...Foreign countries jesus. An interminable two weeks of this to come."" As the two zig and zag through a bleakly downcast vision of roadside attractions and detours, Cassie relives her past with old boyfriends in accounts--starting back when Cassie was a lower-class tourist awed by the London Tube and ending on nudist beaches in Albania--that are delightfully awful: ""Tom. Happy as a pig in shit. Rows of compact arses turning their cheeks up to the sun in the guinness-coloured ovals of his shades."" The novel finds a vein of life in these scenes more dense and powerful than in most of Rona's and Cassie's present-time misadventures, even adding in Galloway's didactic lectures about men, life, and the futility of escape through love or tourism: or after sitting through an homage to Molly Bloom's Ulysses monologue--in which Cassie expresses both her longing for men and her disgust of them--by which time one will be drumming one's fingertips in impatience. Well-observed scenes of quotidian France and hilariously downbeat details of modern love can't overcome the book's end-reliance on a sentimental, simplistic teaser--will Cassie and Rona become a romantic couple?--and leaving the question of love for the next holiday trip only further postpones the drama in this one. A Thelma and Louise without the guns, the adventure, or even the convertible.

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1995
ISBN: 1564780821
Page count: 262pp
Publisher: Dalkey Archive