2014: 58. The Town in Bloom

"It was near the top of The Times Personal column:

Calling Moll Byblow, the Mouse, and the Gazelle.  Madam Lily de Luxe reminds you of a long standing luncheon engagement, at one p.m. next Thursday.  The window table is reserved.  Do not fail.  This might be the last reunion. "

The Town in Bloom, Dodie Smith

Another Dodie Smith, and I have to say, I have complicated feelings about this one.  It's as well written as I Capture the Castle, but the book is so odd.  It starts with a reunion of three ladies who knew each other as young girls in the 1920's (the 4th doesn't show up), and then the main of the book takes place in the 20's as the narrator, Mouse, tries to make it as an actress, but instead gets a job in a theater, and falls in love with the leading man/owner.  And that relationship is what makes the book so strange - this actor-manager (Rex) is a ladies man, and their relationship, we learn, has shaped her whole life as an adult, such that when we find out, in the final section "where are they now" it is so unsatisfying.  I'm being maddeningly vauge, I know, but I don't want to give the plot away - finding out what happens to everyone is sort of the point.

And YET, I can't really discuss what I want to without spoiling, so let me just say, that it is hard to believe that Mouse would both remain friends with Lillian, and remain loyal to Rex - even in the limited way she does.  And what was the whole point of Brice if not to be the alternate love interest (though in a way he kind of does? Even at the end?).  And would that one summer really still shape their lives all those years later? And it is really a victory that Mouse has found a third way between professional woman and boring wife? And why would any of them ever remain friends with Lillian? She was seriously seriously the worst.

You see - for a sort of shambling "charming" novel, there are lot of ideas packed it - but they are all sort of jammed in the last section - you're just floating along reading about a girls adventures in the 1920's - a sort of Awfully Big Adventure, and then at the end it's all women's choices and can you have it all, and it doesn't really work, jammed in like that, but it does serve to make this a bit more than just a charm read.  Gosh, I wish someone else I knew would read this book (which I bought from England, so not bloody likely) and talk about it with me. I think its an interesting failure, but I could be convinced that it's something more.

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017