Wednesday, September 2, 2015


The setting is London in the 1920s, and the city is still reeling from the war.  26-year-old Frances Wray and her mother are barely scraping by, since all the men in the family have died.  To help cover the upkeep costs of their home, they take in lodgers.  The “paying guests,” Lilian and Leonard, are also in their 20s, but their rung on the social ladder is lower than that of the Wrays.  Still, they can afford the rent, thanks to Len’s job with an insurance company.  At first, the comings and goings of the new couple are a minor nuisance, but Frances and Lilian strike up a friendship that turns into a love affair.  The plot takes a sharp turn in another direction when an argument gets out of hand, and the two women make an extremely ill-advised decision.  I do not love reading about people doing incredibly stupid things, and I am not referring to their trysts.  On that subject, though, I found it odd that Frances is very jealous of Len, but Lilian never feels that she is betraying Len with Frances.  In other words, the two lovers have very different perspectives on what a sexual relationship with another woman represents.  Their passionate encounters become boring and repetitive after a while, but then the pivotal event occurs, and I just wanted to get the whole sordid messy aftermath over with, as did the characters.  The author did a great job of conveying how the weeks and then months dragged on and on, but I found the whole process just excruciating, with the two women continually agonizing over what steps to take.  At one point, Lilian suggests a course of action that finally makes sense, but Frances talks her out of it.  Then, a few weeks later, Frances makes the same suggestion, but Lilian talks her out of it.  I just wanted to pull my hair out.

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