Years ago I discovered that one of the [many] benefits to staying home sick from school was the opportunity to watch really bad day-time television. It was an education in itself really: everything I know I learned from Oprah. It also provided the opportunity to get exposed to some very adult themes in an incredibly diverse way. The Bold & The Beautiful was a particularly favourite remedy during any convalescence. It was mind-boggling what any one single face-lifted beauty could endure over the course of a soapie year: several marriages (Elizabeth Taylor had nothing on these crazy cats); engagements; incest and a pregnancy or failed attempted murder. All while running a successful fashion business or hospital (why are they always in hospital?). Oh, and the odd kidnapping by a mysterious and inexplicably familiar looking sultan with perfect teeth.
What. The Actual. F*ck?
These soapies were deliciously addictive in their ridiculousness and I am not above returning to them whenever a sniffle gets the better of me. Comfortingly all these years later, the characters are the same (older, with slightly fewer wrinkles) and it doesn’t take long to become re-immersed in the land of botoxed whimsy. While these vignettes are fun once in a while, I don’t think the same sort of entertainment can be garnered from a literary novel. The mediums are far too different and the written form requires an entirely different style of plot drivers to keep readers engaged.
Which brings me to this novel. Told from the perspective of a young married women (fictional) and the author who imagined her (the non-fictional fictional woman), The Women’s Papers traverses decades and some pretty significant milestones in the lives of women. While sadly there are no perfectly dentured sultans, there are enough polarising characters to overfill this cup. Because that is how the novel feels: too full. To me it seems as though Adelaide cannot commit to a particular plotline and so vacillates between all of them to force her novel forward. I think if you are going to embrace this style of plot journey, the author needs to own it. And by own it I mean shout-it-from-the-Beverly-Hills-rooftops-á-la-Jackie-Collins.
To be fair the novel is not badly written; I think it navigates the soapie/ literary borderland a little too uncomfortably. Going into the Summer hols however, it may be worth a squiz. If nothing else, Adelaide’s old mate intertextuality returns (Wuthering Heights is still on my to read list) and I’m always looking for an excuse to drink!