THE WIVES OF BATH by Susan Swan

THE WIVES OF BATH

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 From the Canadian author of The Last of the Golden Girls (1991): a fantasia on the theme of gender (especially the adolescent variety), set to the tune of a macabre tale about a young girl with a severe case of penis envy. The whole megillah takes place at Bath Ladies College, a boarding school near Toronto, where one Mary Beatrice Bradford is dumped by her unloving doctor father, Morley, and her gin-swizzling stepmother, Sal. Nicknamed ``Mouse'' for her shyness, girl is a very smart 14-year-old hunchback (``I don't look like Quasimodo, but when children notice me coming, that's who they see''). Meanwhile, the school is ruled by a frumpy but good-hearted lesbian named Miss Vera Vaughan (called ``The Virgin'' by the girls), who has a dwarf named Sergeant and a lover in-house--the ``torpedo- breasted'' English teacher, Miss Peddie. A strange crew--but harmless. Actually, though, it's Mouse's fellow students who are round the bend--most especially Pauline Sykes, a charity case who rooms with Mouse and who spends most of her time dressed like a boy. Indeed, Paulie has a mind to turn Mouse male, too, putting her through a series of tests, including killing a pigeon and feeling up a girl--while cross-dressed, of course. But in the end Paulie goes much too far--leaving Mouse behind to contemplate what is so compelling about a penis. A wild reach for the territory of Fay Weldon and Elizabeth Jolley that goes way off the mark. Unpurposeful and silly.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 1993
ISBN: 0-679-41919-5
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1993