Monday, September 29, 2008

Isabel's Bed, Elinor Lipman

Posted by lea at 3:25 PM
I find Elinor Lipman's books interesting, humorous in a low-key kind of way (more English than American) and full of generously portrayed characters, but I can't help the feeling that there's more to them than I'm getting, because so many reviewers seem to rave about them.

My second Lipman book, Isabel's Bed is about wannabe writer Harriet Mahoney, who gets kicked out of her apartment after beind dumped by her live-in lover for a younger woman. She takes a ghost-writing job with glamorous tabloid slut Isabel Krug, famous for being caught in the act with her rich adulterous lover when his wife burst in on them and fatally shot him. Harriet becomes absorbed into Isabel's architect-designed multi-million dollar home and eccentric life while trying to maintain her writer-sensibilities, which tend more towards Remains of the Day than the sensational besteller she's been hired to write.

Isabel's Bed is full of wry egocentric observations by Harriet and a handful of absorbing and well-etched characters. Lipman very successfully positions herself at the more intelligent end of the chicklit spectrum. An enjoyable read.

An excerpt:

There weren't even bubbles in the bath to obscure her private parts from me, her acquaintance of less than twenty-four hours. It was not the lolling soak of Calgon commercials; this was Isabel soaping her wash cloth and scrubbing her armpits and crotch in a manner I hadn't done in front of Kenny after a decade of intimacy. I sat on a wrought iron stool at the foot of the black marble steps, which led to her elevated, sunken tub. She talked and soaked, talked and scrubbed, then talked and rinsed, while I tried to be as casual about her nudity as she was, and while many Isabels bounced off the mirrored walls.

And there was no getting around her breasts, especially in the context of Isabel as tabloid paramour, as the woman Guy VanVleet died for. They were big. Enormous. They drooped from their own weight below the bath water, then surfaced on display, areolas the size of coasters. I wanted to ask if they were real, but decided that no certified plastic surgeon would have built those. Ordinarily I'd feel sorry for a woman with water-balloon breasts, knowing the burdens they imposed, but I could see that Isabel prized them and regarded them as my first research project, as if seeing them would help me write between the lines.


Unknown on October 1, 2008 at 5:15 PM said...

Leanne! where do you find time to read so many books...i don't even have time to read ALL your reviews!

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