Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Girl in the Polka-dot Dress

Beryl Bainbridge
The Girl in the Polka-dot Dress

Little, Brown, 2011

Posthumous novel by Beryl Bainbridge begins with how Washington Harold awaits the arrival of Rose, woman from England and friend of Dr. Wheeler, with whom Harold is familiar too. The entire novel is essentially a road movie, the pursuit of a kind of phantom, Dr. Wheeler.

Both the heroes of the novel are familiar with a doctor, but the reader, except fragmentary memories of Wheeler, did not meet the doctor at all. Motives for characters in a novel are hidden somewhere under the weight of their past. Rose wrote a letter to Harold, who hardly know each other, indicating the purpose of the visit. Harold invites, once it has relation to Wheeler, Rose in the U.S., paying for a ticket and living expenses, although Rose is almost unknown to him. Harold himself does not seem very eager to meet with a doctor, but that their trip with the Rose did not look as if Harold accompanies Rose out of some sense, providing comfort to her, pretends as if he, too, need to see Wheeler. The chase for the doctor - closer to the end of the novel we begin to suspect that there are no doctor at all - turns into a chase, or rather escape from oneself.

This Bainbridge’s novel is a surprisingly old-fashioned thing. Despite the fact that it was written last year, it seems that the author actually wrote it about 50 years ago, but now only pulled out a drawer. And this old-fashioned style is what makes the novel truly outstanding. This book is the highway to nowhere, back to the future. The past of two heroes of the novel, Rose and Harold, - this is what they live in, but in their past there is no joy or indeed something that could pull them back, though the past does not leave them, so that the reader gets the first puzzle: why are they so obsessed with the past? Their past is elusive Dr. Wheeler, the man seemed to define their lives, especially Rose, but really Wheeler is only stain on their memory, and both of them from time to time doubted the importance of doctor for their lifes. So they try to catch up with the past, and they would not succeed.
Between Rose and Harold throughout the novel sparks and discharges fly and such electicity keeps novel in tension. For Harold Rose replace his deceased wife. For Rose, Harold replace Dr. Wheeler, he is a reminder of Wheeler, the opportunity to be with someone who knew Wheeler in the situation of the absence of Wheeler. We are from different backgrounds, said Harold. This is so, they are quite different people with different past, but they are united by one figure from the past, and this is enough to attract them to each other. The relationship between Rose and Harold can hardly be called love, but it is sparkling relationship.

On the background of a travel of lonely souls, we also see the life of the U.S. at that time. The murder of King, Negro’s strikes, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the assassination of Robert Kennedy at the end of the novel. Why do Americans kill each other? - Asked Rose Harold. Before us is a portrait of the collapse in the country. On the example of Rose and Harold, we see that in their souls is emptiness. The same is happening with the country.

Final seems to be open, but it is frustrating and confusing. Was Harold killer of Robert Kennedy? And if so, what was the reason? And what Rose felt when she saw the murder? The novel was left unfinished. These questions will be a long time to simmer in head after reading this very exciting novel.

1 comment:

  1. If you have not read Bainbridge before, this may not be the best novel to begin with, simply because she was not able to finish it as she would have wished. However, even with that, it is an excellent read and the characters are brilliantly written.