Saturday, May 9, 2009

The House of Dolls

Barbara Comyns
Thorndike Press 1991

“Amy Doll, are you telling me that all those old girls upstairs are tarts?”

“Well, not exactly tarts, Doris, but they have gentlemen friends who pay them.”

Trouble is brewing at Amy Doll’s rooming house. Her four ‘golden girl’ boarders, near retirement, have embarked upon a new profession. Well, new to them anyway. In order to supplement their income, the four women traded in their girdles and afternoon tea for tight pants and drink, and began to dabble in the world’s oldest profession. Amy is timid and young and recently widowed, and now a reluctant ‘madam’.

Bertha Jago (she called herself Berti) is a woman of sixty-four, exceptionally tall and bamboo thin, appearing to have no hips, bottom or breasts

Ivy Rope is the youngest of Amy’s ladies – a widow who worked in a haberdashery and woolshop in the nearby Goucester Road

Evelyn Hunter-Smith is a country rector’s daughter (with blue-rinsed hair) and inclined to be a poor man’s edition of Berti. They had a similar build except that Evelyn was not quite as tall and she had a bust, which she considered her best feature. Both were addicted to tight trousers and drink and both had cropped heads

The Senora, as they called her, was in fact a senorita, in spite of her matronly figure. Augustina Puig had been living in the Dolls’ house for over eight years. Amy had never inquired what this magnificent Spanish woman was doing in a Walham Green horse meat shop or wondered who she came to leave her country. Her husband had brought her home one evening when he was engaged in decorating the horsemeat shop. “She’d fit nicely into the big room at the top,’ he said, ‘and the money she brings will pay for Hetty’s schooling.

This book is quite delightful – one long chuckle from beginning to end. Occasionally a great guffaw.

“Berti skimmed in, kissing the Greek on both cheeks, and spun round like a top in front of Ivy and Evelyn. She appeared to have a pair of dehydrated moths on her eyes. ‘Do you like them, dears? False eyelashes. I found them at the back of one of the drawers, must be at least ten years old, but very alluring.’ She fluttered the dehydrated moths over her almost-closed eyes.

“’ Can you see with them?’ Ivy asked bleakly. ‘Not very well, but as long as I can see my drink, that’s all that matters.’ Evelyn was still staring. ‘How have you fixed them?’ she enquired. ‘Actually with glue. There wasn’t anything else. It stings a bit. Do you think they look all right?’

1 comment:

StuckInABook said...

So glad you enjoyed this Comyns - she really is a great author.