TITLE: LULU: A Novella
AUTHOR: NANCY FRIDAY
Details: Received from Argos Nevis
“Nothing erased the bad feelings like acts of daring do.”
Lulu is the semi-autobiographical story of a young girl who moves with her mother and brother from “the dark North” to Charleston when she’s four years old. From very early on in her life Lulu struggles with her feelings and the secrets that surround her. The biggest mystery is her father, who nobody will talk about to her. From the pieces of conversation she manages to overhear she concludes that he must be crazy and locked up, which leads to her worrying that she might be like him. And the strong and dark emotions she sometimes feels seem to make that possibility quite plausible. Torn between her love for her older brother Harry and the deep jealousy that can overwhelm her when she thinks about the closeness between him and the mother who is so very distant with her, Lulu tries to teach herself to hide her dark feelings away; something she doesn’t always manage. But not everything in the girl’s life is bad; there is her mother’s half-brother who seems to love and understand her and her grandmother who is closer to her then she is to her own daughter.
Set in the 1950’s and early 60’s we see discrimination, sexual awakening with its consequences and a rapidly changing world through the eyes of a girl and young woman, desperately trying to find her own identity and place.
This is a nice coming-of-age story, but for me it was too short. We are given fragments, snap-shots of a life without ever being given the full picture. I constantly wanted to know more; more about Lulu’s feelings and the way in which they changed, more about her life and the people around her, and more answers to the questions the girl has. While I enjoyed reading about young Lulu growing up and learning more about her life, the people in it and the ways of the world, the manner in which her story was told felt choppy. It is almost as if the author wanted the reader to feel as frustrated as Lulu does. Like Lulu, the reader is never given enough information to piece the whole story together and left with unanswered questions; left feeling a bit frustrated.
Although this is a well written, easy to read and fascinating story I can’t help feeling that it would have benefitted from being a much longer novel rather than this rather short novella. Nobody can ever accuse Nancy Friday of writing badly, but I can’t help wishing that she would have used her talents to write more of this story. On the other hand, I now feel the need to go back and read “My Mother, My Self” again. It has been a very long time since I read that book and I can’t help feeling that it may contain answers to some of the questions this book left me with.