I’m not normally impressed by celebrity or author endorsements of books, but when it’s Joanna Lumley and she says “As mad and believable as a dream. Dreadfully funny and oddly unsettling. I think Graham Rawle may be a genius.” I will listen. Patsy cannot be wrong.
Woman’s World by Graham Rawle is one of the more original books, both in story and visually, that I have read in a long time. Rawle created the book out of 40,000 text fragments cut from 1960s women’s magazines. Painstakingly, over five years, he wrote the rough draft and then arranged the text fragments to tell the story. It is an amazing work of collage art.
I won’t say much about the plot, because there is a puzzle to work out and some uncertainty over what is real and unreal. On the face of things, Norma Fontaine is a twenty-something British woman in the 1960’s living with her brother and housekeeper. She is obsessed with her own good looks, and style. She feels that she is the embodiment of feminine grace. Others can be put off by her, but no matter, they are only jealous. Her brother Roy takes a new job and meets a lovely young woman, but Norma is a strain on the relationship
I wouldn’t want to subsist on a diet of books like this one, but it certainly was a welcome treat. It brought to mind Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock. Each page is beautifully illustrated and contains an envelope with a letter from the lovers. It has a unique visual appeal and gives the reader a strange sense of intruding on a private romance.