(I will be getting back to posting more book reviews now that I’ve received some new books to review)
I would disagree with the writer who wrote the introduction to Christina Stead’s second novel THE BEAUTIES AND FURIES as far as how important the character Marpurgo is to the end of Elivira and Oliver’s relationship and how important he is overall. He is a great character but Elvira and Oliver’s relationship is doomed from the start.
After all, Elvira is the bored wife of an older English physician who runs away to Paris with her younger student lover. Paris is where they met Marpurgo and where the story is set. One sees from the outset the fling-type nature of their involvement. The spoiled yet stifled wife, the woman looking for a fantasy is paired with the grad student with little and no money who still is on the make for other women.
Elvira’s marriage to the very patient Paul seems modeled on Christina Stead’s own marriage which was rumored to be “open” and the relationship between Elvira, Paul, and Oliver is much like the three pointed relationship that makes up the closing 100 pages or so of Stead’s later book FOR LOVE ALONE which I reviewed here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2009/05/for-love-alone-by-christina-stead.html
At this point in her career, BEAUTIES ,much like her first book THE SEVEN POOR MEN OF SYDNEY, is stronger on prose than plot. Later books like her masterpiece THE MAN WHO LOVED CHILDREN (which I wrote about here http://rgdinmalaysia.xanga.com/649792373/the-man-who-loved-children-by-christina-stead/ ) and HOUSE OF ALL NATIONS ( which I wrote about here http://rgdinmalaysia.blogspot.com/2011/03/house-of-all-nations-by-christina-stead.html ) had stories to match her use of language.
For Stead starts off with a semi-poetic prose that is like the thundering hoofs of a poetic buffalo stampede so powerful so unreal so big and pushy and breathless in its word combinations and streams of similes is her language and descriptions. Even though this is not her best book, I noticed language more in BEAUTIES perhaps because the plot is so simple. That made reading it worthwhile and very entertaining as did the machinations and changes in fortune of Elvira, Oliver, and the Iago from OTHELLO counterpart Marpurgo.
She is still my favorite female writer of all time….That has not changed!