|Laura Wilson: Telling Lies to Alice|
Delacorte Press (Hardcover), ISBN 0385335806
Alice Jones thought the past was gone and dead when she moved to a cottage in rural England. Spending her days caring for her animals, Alice hangs in an emotional limbo. After the suicide of her fiancÚ, Lenny, half of a famous comedic duo, Alice welcomes a life devoid of passion, sex or men. But she suffers from dreams -- nightmares -- of a skeleton dressed in a bunny costume trapped forever in a car at the bottom of a lake.
When newspaper clippings appear in her mailbox with no return address, her private life in the secluded country transforms from peaceful to sinister. Then Jack, Lenny's partner, arrives unbidden on her doorstep, and Alice's carefully constructed country life unravels and her memories flood back.
Told through Alice's eyes, interweaving her memories of her golden days with Lenny, Telling Lies to Alice offers a unique and compelling story with dreamlike qualities. Alice's previous life as Bunny Alice, a bunny costume-clad hostess at a gentlemen's club, reveals itself through Alice's collection of Lenny's belongings in her attic. Her love for the gentle alcoholic remains sweet, even after his years of unfaithfulness and the eventual decline that led to his suicide.
From the moment Jack arrives, Alice suspects he lacks a firm grip on reality. He drinks too much, hides her mail from her and regularly loses his temper. Jack's story unfolds, revealing a dead daughter, old grudges, deep guilt and violence beyond Alice's imagining. As she struggles to piece together a years-old puzzle, Jack holds Alice hostage and makes a last desperate attempt to maintain his dignity.
Wilson deftly draws the decadent lives of the comedic team and those who orbit around them. Spinning a near-endless whirl of women and parties, booze and pills and colossal mistakes, Lenny and Jack's careers took off while their personal lives took a dive into oblivion. Never forgetting that what has become commonplace in 2004 created insuperable scandal in the 1960s, Wilson successfully drops herself back in time to a world where celebrity alcoholism and publicized impropriety meant career suicide.
Alice's melancholy life and deep introspection into both her current situation and her former life as Bunny Alice elicits sympathy from readers. Weak and tormented, Alice simply tries to piece together a life from disconnected and broken parts. Several times she says that life is lived forward, but only understood in reverse. Alice herself struggles courageously to understand her life.
Wilson portrays her characters with skill and aplomb. They display depth, flaws and understandable failings. Jack's slide into madness receives a skilled and light touch, and Wilson never slips into caricature or sentimentality. Well worth the read, this book lingers on after the last page.
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