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Woman's World: A Novel Hardcover – January 28, 2008
"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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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.)
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"A brilliant invention, allowing full lyrical use of the available material...Woman's World may prove to be metafiction's first bestseller." -- The Guardian
"Woman's World is an absorbing, unsettling story...an amazing mash-up, a beautifully bizarre accomplishment..." -- Erin Loeb, Bookslut
"Woman's World is charming, chilling, sinister, surreal and utterly unforgettable." -- The Scotsman
"Amazing...It has to be seen to be believed." -- Jezebel.com
"The most wildly original novel produced in this country in the past decade...This book is a work of genius." -- The Times
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The story is full of mystery and intrigue, but done in an intelligent manner. Rawle does not half-heartedly conceal various twists in his story. Instead, they are revealed so bluntly that there is a moment of being astounded, then the "Ah ha" and ability to piece previous clues together. However, the novel is not merely mystery, but also social critique of the language used to describe a "woman's world" and gender roles in general. Rawle's ability to work a variety of genre's into one book is what makes it fabulous.
Rawle's Woman's World is simply an incredible piece of visual art and writing that is inspirational in its' creativity and intellectual depth.
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'.
Then I read the book and forgot all these questions. Roy and his delusional sister are believable and sympathetic. Eve, Roy's love interest, is kind without having a flat personality.
The detective noir themes could have been pushed a little harder, however. There are plenty of dark twists within the story, but little mystery until the ambiguous ending. It's a fun ride, anyway, with a narrator easily distracted by stains, soaps, modeling, and "women's work."
Perhaps the narrative's biggest triumph is its journey through the facade of popular 1960's femininity. The vibrant and flawed "Norma Fontaine" is the image of womanhood that Roy has found in women's magazines. Like this narrative, Norma is made with scraps and pieces of a commercial, frilly world that doesn't exist. The character is convincing and intriguing, though, just like this story.