Oracles and Miracles

Stevan Eldred-Grigg, Author Penguin Books $6.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-14-009927-0
Raised on an embittered mother's working-class maxims and ignorance, and nourished by fairy tales, movie magazines and consumer advertisements, twin sisters Fag and Ginnie grow up in Christchurch, New Zealand, in the 1930s and '40s, a city of ``peeling paint, flaking iron, cracked li noleum, dusty yards.'' This colorful bildungsroman is narrated in several voicesthe eloquent, literate Fag, the sensitive but unlettered Ginnie, and a historian and an industrial psychologist who are remote and objective. The twins' ``treadmill of dreams'' enables them to cope with their helpless anger at life's injustices. The spunky adolescents pass from school into the dreary hardships of factory and secretarial life at age 14. In addition to buying pretty dresses on time payment for endless dances, they fantasize about love and ``slumping into the arms of the prince and slide, drift, slip into bliss.'' Fag tries to fulfill the reverie by marrying wealthy Roddie, but it is Ginnie, with her several babies and working-class husband, who is happiest. Language plays a crucial role in the sparkling story: Fag, who can label and specify with an educated vocabulary, is alienated from her inner life, while Ginnie's salty words and ``dreams and hopes and smokes and shadows that came and went in her head'' resonate with emotional intensity. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/03/1988
Release date: 06/01/1988
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