Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Monkey's Mask by Dorothy Porter

This book is written as a poem, but it is not difficult to read.

Overall I don’t think it said anything profound. But it is used as a text in first year English literature at some universities, so maybe I missed something.

The narrator is Jill, a private investigator. She falls in love with Diane, a lecturer of a young girl who has gone missing, and whose case Jill is researching. The young girl, Mickey, is found dead and battered.

There seems to be some superior voice throughout this book that ‘deviant’ sex is somehow better than ‘ordinary’ sex. This is implied through the lightly contemptuous description of Mickey’s parents who live in the North Shore and are boringly heterosexual. But at the end we discover that Mickey was a victim of that deviant sex, so I’m not sure what the point of the book was, to be honest.

I guess the main thread through the story was the love story between Jill and Diane. Jill fell desperately in love, while Diane was more interested in attaining another notch on her bedpost.

I didn’t really understand the point of the story. There were no redeeming characters in it. In particular, I found the treatment of female characters to be quite brutal. Mickey was dead; her mother was painted patronisingly as a sheltered north shore woman who wore floral dresses; Barbara, the wife of one of the academic poets Mickey was supposedly shagging, was jealous and tragic; and Diane turned out to be nasty, self-obsessed and quite evil. I guess the male characters weren’t exactly very likeable either, but there seemed to be an acceptance of that—even an elevation of them in spite of their flaws. Nick, Diane’s husband, for example, was someone you wanted to meet. Despite being the nastiest of all characters, he was mysterious and desirable.

To sum up, the book left me thinking: well that was an easy and relatively enjoyable read, but what was it trying to say?

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