|The Women Friends|
I know, I know. I’m a binge reader. I can go for months without reading anything, but if I’m on holiday and the mood takes me I can read half a dozen books in as many days. So it is just now: oh, the joys of holidaying at home when the cloud is down and there’s a chill wind blowing.
I won’t bore you with every book I’ve read since my last blog, partly because some of them are quite samey, and also I’ve always vowed not to review books I don’t think are very good. (There have been some of those, too.) But I tore through a novella last night that was both good and different.
The Women Friends: Selina is by a Facebook friend of mine, Miriam Drori, and her co-author Emma Millar, and I bought it (as I so often do) to support an author who writes for a small independent publisher, in this case, Crooked Cat. It’s a novella set in Vienna between the wars and it’s the story of Selina, who (briefly) models for artist Gustav Klimt and falls in love with one of his other models with whom she sits for his famous painting, The Women Friends.
It’s not a period of history I’m particularly familiar with, and I know nothing about art, but that really didn’t matter. The two authors set the scene wonderfully, and they cover a range of characters in what’s almost a cartoon of a louche, hedonistic society that’s sleepwalking towards its nightmarish end.
Selina’s sexual awakening comes from the Jewish woman Janika, and she goes on to have another affair with a woman called Anja. The story got considerably darker, as Anja became drawn into the unsavoury politics of the far right with what appear to be the best of intentions, but we know the course of history. It was only going to end one way. It’s a credit to the authors that I was desperately hoping that somehow Selina would be able to save all her friends who fell on the wrong side of the nazi party for their race or their sexuality. (No spoilers, though.)
It’s a beautifully written story, and highly evocative. For me the relationship with Janika, clearly the love of Selina’s life, petered out a little: I never like it when a main character disappears from the story. Klimt died very early on, too, and the story moved away from the artistic circles not long after that point, which was a little odd given that the whole premise of the books appeared to be the painting and the two women in it. That said, the blurb implies there will be more in a series and if there are, I’ll be looking out for them.