Tuesday, February 14, 2012

REVIEW: The Girl in the Polka-Dot Dress, by Beryl Bainbridge

The Girl in the Polka-Dot Dress, by Beryl Bainbridge. Published 2011 by Europa Editions. Literary Fiction.

Well, I guess it had to happen sooner or later- I read a Europa I didn't like.

At first I thought I was just going to DNF The Girl in the Polka-Dot Dress, celebrated British author Beryl Bainbridge's posthumously published novel about two strangers on a road trip to California just before the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The first time I tried to read it, I found it dull and confusing. Bainbridge tells the story with less than the minimum exposition; heavy on dialogue and internal monologue, we don't know much about why an American widower Washington Harold and an English girl named Rose are looking for one Mr. Wheeler. Little by little, we find out some, but I was still left with more questions than answers.

So I put it down for a while and picked it up again, determined not to be defeated. And I wasn't, at least in the sense that I finished it. I still don't understand much about what happened.  I wonder if this minimalist style is typical of Bainbridge's writing; this is the first novel of hers I've read. Whatever else you can say though, it's definitely not for me.

I did enjoy some things about the book. I liked the gentle accumulation of detail and her strange relationship with Harold. I liked the contradictions that often occurred between what one of the characters says and what he or she is thinking. And their rambling adventures and the people they meet along the way have a darkly comic picaresque quality that is kind of fun. On the whole though, not really one for me. Maybe you'll have better luck!

This is my second Europa for 2012's Challenge. I'll probably read The Nun next.

Rating: BORROW

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Europa Editions.


bermudaonion said...

If you didn't understand it, I'm sure I wouldn't.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Uh yeah, what Kathy said. I'm not an idiot when it comes to subtle messages but I need to be entertained a little.

Zibilee said...

I once picked up a collection of Bainbridge at the used bookstore, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. It sounds like there was just something missing with this book, and I am curious to see if I will have the same experience with my collection. Very thoughtful and honest review today, Marie. I am sorry this one didn't work for you.