The Thumbnail Book Reviews

by John Q McDonald --- 26 December 2003

Out of Time

by Paula Martinac

Stumbling out of the rain and into a Manhattan antique shop, Susan Van Dine discovers a compelling old photo album that she must have, even to the point of theft. She is a student at Columbia, and she can't seem to decide what to do with her life. The four women pictured in this photo album seem to have some kind of answers for her. The women were friends, companions and lovers who flourished in the 1920s. Susan, who is a lesbian, wants to know more about lesbian life and culture in the 1920s. These women begin to haunt her, appearing to Susan in her dreams and at quiet moments as she peruses the documents she is able to find. Susan herself, though, is a fumbling character. She, and the author, are often so focused on lesbian life that they miss what is an otherwise good story. Historically speaking, the women in that old scrapbook are interesting. How Susan goes about discovering more about their lives seems to be based on her sexuality. This issue is so predominant in the mind of the character and the author, that something else is missing from the book. The writing is fairly good, but far too much falls out far too conveniently. Susan is extraordinarily lucky as elderly women fill in the pieces of the story and then quietly die. She is a frustrating character, and one would be surprised to think that her long-suffering lover, Catherine, would stick around. Then again, the author here is looking for a very particular audience, one of which I am most likely not. The book is a romantic fantasy for lesbians looking for a historical understanding of their own sexuality and culture. One can relate to Susan's drive to learn about these women. But this book brings it across in an almost too clean and neat a fashion. Overall interesting but not compelling reading.

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