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Woman's World: A Novel Paperback – January 6, 2009

15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At heart, Rawle's overlong fantasia—constructed entirely out of 40,000 text fragments, printed in facsimile, that he cut from 1960s British women's magazines—is a tribute to the pulp noir spirit. In suburban England circa 1960, 29-year-old Roy Little suffers from a split personality, apparently the result of a mysterious accident (or was it?) sustained by his sister in childhood. His other self, Norma Fontaine, lives in a dream of the latest fashions, beauty tips and handy hints for the home, watched over by an attentive if disapproving housekeeper, Mary. Or could Mary actually be Roy's mother? We find ourselves rooting for Roy as he applies for a job and meets the attractive, good-humored Eve in a cafe. But Norma keeps rearing her unruly head until one afternoon, she dresses herself to the nines and gets picked up by a photographer, Mr. Hands, with deadly results. British collagiste Rawle charms with sheer campy gumption. The text itself, however, looks like a cut-'n'-paste ransom note. It's fine for a page or two, but becomes wearisome long before the last of the 400-plus pages. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"'The most wildly original novel produced in this country in the past decade... a work of genius' Neel Mukherjee, The Times * 'An exquisitely wayward work of art and outright comic masterpiece... charming, chilling, sinister, surreal and utterly unforgettable' Scotsman * 'Dazzling' Alexander Masters, Evening Standard * 'Barmy but brilliant' Raymond Briggs * 'This book is astounding... William Burroughs let loose with dressmaker's scissors in the hyper-real landscape of an early sixties Ladybird book... Truly wonderful' Patrick McCabe" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Trade Paper Edition edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582434638
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582434636
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.7 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,208,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. S. Gaisford on March 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The `woman' of the title exists through the cuttings that make up her story: so that in effect, the narrator is created by the text itself. This sounds a bit too clever by half: and it is: but that doesn't stop it being an un - put - down - able read.
Graham Rawle's expert manipulation of cuttings from 1960s womens' magazines presents a deeply compelling psychological portrait. A fascinating insight into the mindset of a `lady' prescribed by the media of the time - promoting obsession with home furnishings, elegant waistlines and a naive notion of romantic love - is juxtaposed with the ever more complex reality of a troubled and restless mind unable to lay ghosts from the past to rest. You're reeled in by a need to determine the `real' voice through the dizzying proliferation of media jargon and retro fashion imagery. As the plot seeps through the cracks between cuttings, the depiction of lonely characters going about their suburban routine existences masterfully undercuts the superficial glossy ideal. Our heroine's clumsy foot tries to boot the gritty banality of her world into a relentlessly romantic vision of glamorous cosmopolitanism. The fit is as ungainly as the dresses she dons. The result is by turns painfully sad, eery and hysterically funny. Latent hysteria sets the pace of this unlikely thriller, where reality and fantasy head for a full - on collision.
Each page is a work of art: incorporating the whimsical phraseology of the time, lacing kitsch inanities with instances of poetic poignancy, punctuating moments of insight with visual cues, the text literally sliding off the page in moments of panic. The modern - day Frankenstein's monster wears `raucous red Boulevard Court shoes'.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Tracey Carmichael on May 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As an English teacher in an urban setting, I am always searching for literature that is 'outside the box,' that breaks the rules of stuffy, formulaic writing by writers who have no artistic vision. With "Woman's World" I have ignited young adults struggling with literacy; they are creating their own literary visions from music and art magazines. Is not the purppose of literature to implore the reader to think, to create, to act? Is this not the a similar purpose of an artist? Not only are my students engaging in this artistic journey, but two other teachers are now using it. "Woman's World" is a complelling read, to say the least. Each line, each phrase, each word, draws the reader to think of the process, thus, one is drawn not only into the characters' lives, but one is drawn into the writer's life as well. What a refreshing read!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Seys on May 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This story is well written, fun, creative & clever. The text/picture cutouts sprinkle 1960s language & images into a modern-day tale. An intriguing story that kept me delighted turning pages to see what the author's creativity would reveal. An absolute masterpiece of writing and art combined. Get it - you've not seen anything like it before.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. A. Lord on June 10, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When I was a child I loved to climb into the window seat behind my grandmother's sofa, draw the curtains so I was hidden from anyone who came into the room, and spend hours poring over the stack of 1960s Home Beautiful and Women's Weekly magazines that resided there. The brittle, yellowing pages held such a visual fascination, with their improbable promises of domestic perfection, and this book transported me right back there.
I worried that the cut-and-paste style would prove distracting or that the narrative and the rhythm of the words would suffer from the limitations that Rawle imposed on himself, but I was delighted to find that, despite my reservations, the opposite occurred.
The appearance of the text -- gigantic drop capitals, strange fonts, pictures -- adds to the reading experience, as does the quirky injection of bathos or humour when Rawle quotes directly from ads for soap powder, advice columns, or romance stories.
My advice to you? As Kate Samperi would say, take your time to really taste and savour the exquisite word play and artistic presentation of this graphic novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Killian HALL OF FAME on January 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In Graham Rawle's Oulipean fantasy, set in suburban England circa 1960. Stirling Moss, Cliff Richard, Diana Dors, and Sylvia Sims are the presiding spirits of the women's magazines ("Woman," "Woman's Own," "Woman's World") devoured by Rawle's narrator. Rawle, a well known collagist based in the UK, has cut and pasted every word of his novel from old issues of these journals, and their mawkish sentimentality, banal patriotics, and twee grooming tips have been purposely allowed to soak through into the plot, like Chanel #5 used as Drano.

"Norma Fontaine," lives in a dream of "the latest fashions, beauty tips, and handy hints for the home." Eve, an attractive, good-humored girl whom Norma's alter ego Roy meets in a cafe, kindles his romantic interests; he begins to imagine a future together with her, but "Norma" keeps rearing her unruly head especially when Roy is brought face to face with lovely ladies' clothing.

A photographer, Mr. Hands, photographs Norma. "He strutted, with rather apart legs, like a robin in a shrunk red cardigan." (104) When she calls at Hands' seedy flat, he attempts an indecent act that dismays Norma, who attacks him with her red shoe and leaves him for dead. As in every James Cain or Cornell Woolrich novel, her crime haunts her and ruins all her human relations.

Rawle is clever, and knows he's working over hackneyed ground, like a British version of Charles Busch, sending up the late 50s melodramas of multiple personality (Psycho, The Search for Bridey Murphy, The Three Faces of Eve). The basic plot of the bloke tormented by his own need to cross-dress was trite when producer William Castle used it as the basis for his Psycho rip-off Homicidal (1961).
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