Wednesday 5 April 2017

Feminist blast from the past

A Masculine Ending (Loretta Lawson) A friend recommended Joan Smith's Loretta Lawson books after I said I was looking for crime books written by British women and which didn't necessarily involve police detectives.

Loretta Lawson is an English professor at a university in London. She's a feminist in an era when feminism was often equated with lesbianism and radical political views. However, with the benefit of around 30 years' hindsight, Loretta is just a normal woman, living a normal life. It must have been more of an eye-opener when it was written in the mid-1980s.

The action takes place in Paris, London and Oxford and it captures the era perfectly in a way that Agatha Christie's books capture the 1920-30s. Loretta listens to tapes of her favourite pop music whilst driving, she has to use a telephone box when her landline develops a fault, and her research is carried out in libraries using newspaper cuttings. It's what we used to do before the digital era and the Internet.

Events unfold through Loretta's eyes and her feminism sometimes clouds her judgement about people. I really enjoyed the humour in a very minor sub-plot of attempts to change gender-based French grammar, references to Spare Rib and male-hated women's support groups.

As characters and story developed, I began to make sense of the mystery, but made the mistake of reading a review of a TV adaptation on, which gave the game away. Still, it was an enjoyable, somewhat nostalgic read, and not at all taxing.

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