Author: Erica Abeel
Publisher: Texas Review Press
Type of book: 1950s-1990s, marriage, Allen Ginsburg, friendship, unconventional choices, Paris France, university, noveau-rich, old money, homosexuality, hidden secrets, artists, secret crushes, settling for second best, blossoming, stages, cheating
Year it was published: 2016
Three college friends from the 50s blaze their own path in love and work, braving the stifling conventions of the age, and anticipating the social thaw that would arrive ten years later. These “wild girls” pay heavy penalties for living against the grain, but, over the years, rebound and re-set their course, drawing strength from their friendship. The novel follows them from an elite northeastern college, to Paris with Allen Ginsberg, to New York’s avant-garde scene in the early sixties, to a mansion in Newport, to the slopes of Zermatt, to Long Island’s Gold Coast, as it celebrates the nimbleness and vitality of women who defied an entire culture to forge their own journey.
"Wild Girls is a novel about a few women rebels who came of age in the 50s with the Beats in Paris, Allen Ginsberg (when he was still sleeping with girls), and a Yoko Ono-based character in early 60s New York. More importantly, Erica Abeel IS a 'Wild Girl'--she lived the life, these are her friends, and this is an insider's peek into that world."—Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians
Praise for Abeel's Women Like Us:
"Smart, snappy, and compulsively readable ... Written with wit and perception."—Publishers Weekly
"An old-fashioned good read."—New York Times Book Review
Main characters include Brett, a-what I would guess- an upstart from a Jewish family that has been in America for a generation or so? She is fearless in following her dreams and is multi talented in dancing, writing. For some odd reason, she settles for second best in her life instead of trying to become the best. Most of the book and story is focused on her life in Paris with Allen Ginsburg followed by living with Rinko Park who is reminiscent of Yoko Ono. Julia seems to come from an old moneyed family and although at the start she makes conventional choices by giving up her dreams and living the way society desires her to do so, towards the end she blossoms and breaks out of the mold and makes some shocking and unconventional choices, especially when faced with some ugly truths about her husband. Audrey, I believe, is noveau rich family with a half brother named Bodie. In my opinion there wasn't enough of her in the story. She also makes an uncoventional choice when it comes to love and in the end has to deal with the damage her choice caused her life.
When playtime is over, who will be there to catch you?
The story is in third person narrative from Brett's (girl) Audrey's and Julia's points of view. The two women that the book mostly focused in my opinion are Brett, followed by Julia. The story definitely starts out interestingly with Brett meeting up with Allen Ginsburg then moves on to a character's funeral and then followed by going back to 1954, few years prior to moving to France and from then on moving on to 1990s. In some ways the story is an unconventional Jane Austen because there is social commentary of women's lives, and a myriad of references of what one would call "high-brow" things and literature. I did enjoy learning of the high culture of back then and importance of universities as well as reputations that people from these universities have. (I come from a public university thus, believe it or not, I am clueless when it comes reputations of people from various universities.)
(From the book)
Erica Abeel, author of Wild Girls, is a novelist, journalist, and former dancer, who has published five books, including Women Like Us (A Book of the Month Club Selection), Only When I laugh, I'll Call you Tomorrow and Other Lies between men and women, and Conscience Point. Based in New York and Long Island, she writes about women rebels who dared to live against the grain before the upheavals of the 1960s and shows how their lives unfold over subsequent decades. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, Esquire, and Ms, among many other publications and websites. In addition, Abeel reviews films and interviews directors for The Huffington Post and Film Journal International. For more information, visit: www.ericaabeel.com
Due to the summary, I honestly thought it would be similar to Autobiography of Us, a book that also begins in 1950s about two good friends and of the pull and tug between dreams and society's expectations. In Autobiography of Us, women gave up their dreams for society's expectations, but in Wild Girls, (really aptly named) the women embrace their dreams, despite the fact that a lot of them will cause raised eyebrows. The stories are reminiscent of 'what if' what if a woman moved to another country? What if a woman stayed with a married lover without giving the ultimatum? A lot of references were a bit misplaced, and I don't think I was able to understand some of the girls' backgrounds in first chapters, but despite those minor quibbles, the story doesn't lose its spirit of freedom, lover and flaunting societal expectations. For me also, I had fun watching the beginnings of what would eventually become rebellion, wars and Beetles. I also liked learning about Allen Ginsburg because the only thing I knew of him is that he had written Howl, beyond that I knew nothing about him.
Given by Felicia Sinusas
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)