CROCODILE SOUP by Julia Darling


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A British writer, reminiscent of Jeanette Winterson, debuts with an edgy, richly imagined and beautifully crafted novel that charts the search for love of a thirtyish lesbian whose life is a long surreal nightmare interrupted by the kindness of a few men and women.

Archaeologist Gert, who tells her story with the occasional interpolation of pleading letters from her estranged mother, has fallen in love with Eva, a young woman who serves coffee in the cafeteria of the museum where they both work. As Gert relates her nervous pursuit of Eva, she also recalls her troubled childhood, growing up with equally troubled Frank, her twin, in a house haunted by a long-dead famous woman poet, and parents who didn’t get along. George, her father, a man of confused ambitions, soon fled to Africa to raise crocodiles for handbags, and her stylish mother Jean, who married for money, couldn’t cope with the responsibilities of being a wife and mother. Gert sees ghosts, roams the house at night, and once thinks she's been swallowed by Frank. A perceptive psychologist helps, but her fears and bizarre experiences continue, exacerbated when her father dies and the family money runs out. As an adult, her pursuit of Eva goes nowhere—a weekend at the seaside is a disaster; then Gert is injured in a car crash, escapes from a sinister hospital, and learns she's lost her job. She continues her recollection of the past that includes Frank's suicide and her surprisingly enlightening encounter with lesbian activists. And while she ponders a response to her mother, Gert finds herself befriended by an old friend of Eva's.

A darkly comic, sometimes strained, but always impressively inventive story about family and the unpredictability of love as a woman, against heavy odds, finally finds herself.

Pub Date: April 4th, 2000
ISBN: 0-06-019602-5
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2000