Volume 90, Issue 67

Thursday, January 23, 1997



The isolated land of love

Other Women
By Evelyn Lau
Paperback, $14.95, 193 pages

The last year has definitely belonged to Canadian novelists.

Established authors like Margaret Atwood, Timothy Findley, Robertson Davies and newer writers such as Joy Kogawa and Ann-Marie MacDonald have all published new books, while being lauded with acclaim, nominations and awards. Among those relatively new Canadian novelists to join the ranks of the heavyweight writers is Evelyn Lau with her novel Other Women.

Lau's novel captures the maudlin essence of a love affair and its inevitable ending. Yet, there is something intimately obsessive about the reflections in Other Women, as the narration is suffused with Fiona's unfulfilled physical desire and longing for another human being.

Fiona is a young artist experiencing a painful breakup with a married man. The narration often switches between third and first person, making her experience both a reflection and an empty conversation addressing the absent lover. There is little dialogue as the narration moves like the mind and the imagination and, finally, becomes a stream of consciousness filled with excessive physical descriptions and exorbitant similes.

Other Women tells about fantasizing about married women and understanding a lover's commitment. It details the idealized and obsessive imaginative construct of another human being.

Lau writes with sorrow, pain and suffering in order to create Fiona's lonely reflections. There is an aura of isolation, abandonment and physical craving in Other Women, as Fiona becomes more obsessed with the fullness of Raymond's life in contrast to her own.

The novel is complete with modern images of fast-paced life, as Fiona moves from city to city, convention to convention, while taxi cabs, hotels, ice buckets and mini-bars are a more permanent fixture within her life than men.

Lau's new novel is filled with sadness. The atmosphere – superficial elements of California boulevards, boutiques and chic restaurants – often matches the frivolous infatuation of ended love. It is an easy, quick, though emotional read about a woman's obsession with a lover and the inability to fulfil a future with him because of his wife. Lau's novel poetically approaches the process of healing and forgetting.

Other Women caresses isolation and exquisite longing just as the sunlight caresses the motionless bodies of these narcissistic lovers.

–Emily Ruffell

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Copyright The Gazette 1997