My rating: 3 of 5 stars
a novel with an odd sense of intrigue… we begin with an attempted suicide and travel through class issues, epilepsy-as-craziness, women’s matters, nascent unions, and dreams.
mostly it’s a story about two women: Olive and Regina, the former a miner’s wife and sometime maid, the latter an upper-crust lady with epilepsy and an intermittent desire to die.
Olive and Regina become friends of a sort, and then the shit hits the fan.
i guess what i find intriguing about this slow-paced book is watching the friendship between the two develop. as a not-wealthy person myself, my natural sympathies are entirely with Olive. it’s hard to trust Regina, however kind she is, because she is the kind of person who requires help getting dressed, and has never once washed her own petticoats.
but Regina too has problems: epilepsy, which at the time was considered a form of insanity. one of those things that wealthy folks swept under the thickest rug they had, which often meant tossing the afflicted into an insane asylum.
it’s a pleasure to see a women’s friendship unfold in a literary work. The (paid) work of caring for Regina has separated Olive from her husband, and Regina of course hasn’t one… so things may unfold more-or-less freely between the women. most of the book follows this friendship, their growing trust, their plans to permanently intertwine their lives.
then the shit hits the fan.
from that moment, things get a little coincidental and deus-ex-machina-y. but the ending isn’t some required redemptive blah blah blah–could have really worked out mostly just as it does. anyway the ending isn’t the point. it’s the friendship, and that’s just lovely.