The Blue Woman

Mary Flanagan, Author W. W. Norton & Company $21 (0p) ISBN 978-0-393-03803-3
Flanagan's (Trust; Rose Reason) second collection of short stories (after Bad Girls) bursts with insight about male-female relations, women growing older and the small dramas that affect us all. In unflaggingly crisp, witty prose that displays a wide range of styles and points of view, the tales range through the different life stages of women, from the youth of mischievous Sandy, who swings wildly between love and hate for her sister and abusive father in ``When I'm Bad,'' to the waning years of the alcoholic ``Duchess'' in ``Beyond Barking,'' who makes it clear that she wants ``Sex! Sex! Sex!'' at the Shady Meadows nursing home. While the 16 stories here proceed from childhood to old age, their settings, characters and historical time frames are nicely varied. Most of the tales are set in England and America, but Greece plays a surprisingly large role as well. In the title story, a seemingly contented British couple on holiday in Greece discovers their underlying hostility for one another when the man speaks of his lover's future as a ``wrinkled and ridiculous and menopausal'' woman ``watching dark men. Hoping to catch one with an empty slot.'' Elsewhere, in ``The Octopus Vase,'' an oddly solitary American woman, unable to eat octopus because of the brutal way in which the ``gentle and shy'' creatures are killed, has turned her back on civilization and moved to a Greek isle. The sense of women caring almost instinctively for other lives runs through this fine collection, whether displayed humorously, as in ``Fluff'' (about two increasingly crazy cat lovers), or poignantly, as in ``Bye-Bye, Blackbird,'' in which a woman falls down upon rocks and dirt while trying to save an injured bird from an attacking cat. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
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