Friday, May 19, 2017

Five top books about bad girls

Ellen Klages's books include The Green Glass Sea, White Sands, Red Menace, and the story collection Wicked Wonders. One of her five favorite books about bad girls who dance where they want to, as shared at
The Paying Guests
Sarah Waters

A confession: I have not actually read this book. I listened to it as an audio book—all 21 hours and 28 minutes of it—the autumn after I hurt my back and had to spend many, many hours lying supine in a cool, darkened room.

(I have since read the print versions of several other Sarah Waters’s books, and am in awe of her talent and skill and mastery of prose. And story-telling.)

But I’m really glad that I listened to this one, because my American eye would not have caught the nuances of class difference in written dialogue nearly as well as the British narrator delivered those subtleties of speech and accent to my ears.

After WWI, Frances Wray and her mother find themselves with a large house, but reduced circumstances. They have let the servants go, one by one, and are finally forced to take in boarders—Len and Lillian Barber, a married couple. For the first part of the book, everyone is rather formal, then Lillian and Frances begin to teeter on the edge of a forbidden attraction. Eventually, they fall, dramatically, disastrously, irrevocably.

These two strong women defy their (very different) upbringings, cultural assumptions, gender roles, societal norms, and even laws in order to be together. The book turns from a novel-of-manners to a page-turning thriller in the space of a few chapters. I stayed up way past my bedtime to keep listening, the aural equivalent of “I couldn’t put it down.”
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue