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Monday, 14 December 2015

Book Review: The Comedienne by V.G Lee

The Comedienne is a rather episodic book about Joanie Littler, a woman who struggles through a selection of unequal relationships before inventing a lover to allow her back into the world. From her days caring for her mother - who disapproves of her first lesbian relationship - to finally 'breaking up' with Freddy and opening the door to new possibilities, The Comedienne covers two decades in Joanie's life.

This is a genuinely funny novel in places and I laughed out loud a few times. The conversational first-person tone of the narrative is pretty engrossing and the characters really do spring from the pages. At the beginning, Lee depicts the intense irritation that living with a parent as an adult can induce. Her mother's interference in her relationship with Susan leads to one of my favourite moments of the book and it involves slippers.

All the imaginary girlfriend stuff was amusing to start with but, I have to say, by the end I was wondering why Joanie had carried it on so long, considering how little she got out of the whole thing. It allowed for on-going humorous and tricky situations but condemned her to the loneliness she was hoping to avoid by inventing a girlfriend and gaining access to couples' dinner parties. It left me a bit ambivalent.

The episodic nature meant that some scenes were included while others weren't. I was rather disappointed that we got a full depiction of Joanie attending one old woman's funeral but not her own mother's. I felt like I wanted the circularity of that in the novel as a reader. Similarly, I wasn't sure about the ending for opposite reasons. All that said, I enjoyed it for the amusing book it was and I'll know what not to do next time I invent an imaginary girlfriend.

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