THE WOMEN'S HOUSE by Joan Lingard


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From the author of The Second Flowering of Emily Montjoy (1979) and Sisters by Rite (1984), a further exploration of the bonds between women. This time Lingard's ladies are connected by their domicile, a ramshackle boardinghouse somewhere in England, and by their battle to retain their leases after an ""Itie"" businessman buys the place out. Shangri-la is the name of the derelict mansion, inhabited by three generations of women related not by blood but by affection: Evangeline Hudson, at 85, is an ancient feminist, living in a musty apartment surrounded by her books and yellowing correspondence: Anna Pemberton, divorced and middle-aged, is a mime by profession, by nature silent and self-contained: and Holly O'Malley, 17, has recently escaped from an awful family life and is now happily employed at Pavarotti's Pizzeria. All the women are urged to leave Shangri-la by the new owner, Maximo Tonelli, the don from across the street; offered incentives; reasoned with; and finally subjected to a st ream of Italian waiters who noisily take up residence in Shangri-la's spare rooms. Meanwhile, Anna begins an affair with Tonelli; Holly takes up mime; and Evangeline breaks her leg one night when no one's around to watch out for her. The Tonellis hustle her off to a nursing home, but Evangeline escapes--only to die in a fire at Shangri-la, started by Tonelli's son. If Lingard's story only had some discernible point (feminist or otherwise), maybe her caricatured depictions of the grasping, treacherous Italians and incessantly perky tone would be easier to take. As is, though, her portraits of three quirkily charming women do not a satisfying novel make.

Pub Date: Sept. 12th, 1989
Publisher: St. Martin's