Title: The Woman in Green
Author: Larry Lockridge
Genre: Literary Fiction
The Woman in Green is the final installment in Lockridge’s Enigma Quartet series. The four novels can be read independently, but there are connections, similarities, and related themes.
Lockridge bases this last outing in New Harmony, Indiana, the site of the visionary utopias of Father George Rapp and, subsequently, Robert Owen in the 19th century. Both experiments provide a loose framework for the madcap narrative that is set in 2000 with characters inspired by Mary and Percy Shelley and George Gordon, Lord Byron. The re-imaginings of these three major figures of the English Romantic Movement return to New Harmony in an attempt to create a modern “Boatload of Knowledge.”
With fantastical tangents riffing on Shakespeare, Dante, and Romantic literature, among others, there is also tributary reference to the novel, Raintree County, written by Lockridge’s father as well as The Snake Pit, also written by a family member in the 1940s. The Woman in Green showcases Lockridge’s erudition but also the near-infinite depths of his outlandish imagination. This is brought fully alive and complemented by artful prose, rich in metaphor and rhetorical flourish.
Notwithstanding the abstract quality of the story, this outing is tightly constructed and contained. The story is in three parts and begins in a linear fashion with Mary and Percy Schiller exploring a labyrinth previously created by Father Rapp. The reader is then given a direct address from the narrator who gradually reveals himself as the novel progresses. Refreshingly irreverent, the narrator advises that he is addressing readers in 2050. This creates a dual reality in the mind of the actual reader, skewing perspective and subjectivity even further.
There is a strong seam of satirical comedy at the beginning, which, as events advance, gradually becomes more introspective, meditating on the pathos of the human condition. Through several literary techniques and the absurdities of the plot, Lockridge presents, suggests, and muses upon profound existential and philosophic questions. He toys with both reader and characters while liberally dousing the entire narrative in socio-historic, literary, and popular cultural references. His allusions, illusions, and bon-mots effortlessly become part of the orchestrated craziness, and reader foreknowledge is not required, although it does give additional meaning.
Lockridge has a blast with his characters deconstructing and subverting their personalities to reveal folly and bewilderment tempered by the occasional flash of insight. He employs a constant stream of farcical comic effects and motifs which pose problems that seem designed as much for his pleasure as for the reader’s.
Part II, The Pageant, sees the arrival of Allegra, George and Claire’s (Mary’s step-sister) daughter. This section is the strongest involving an offbeat road trip through Indiana and introduces Stretch, Allegra’s turtle friend. Stretch also enables Lockridge to revisit the subject of suicide, which is explored through several of the characters.
Although cushioned with comic sensibility, there is a poignant contextual layer to this thread. Nonetheless, The Woman in Green gifts its characters through growing self-awareness and the fluidity of mutual bonds, both sexual and platonic, a dawning discovery of their own personal utopia instead of stagnation and extinction. Lockridge maintains a galloping pace throughout, which occasionally becomes exhausting to read, as some of his vignettes and expositions do veer into bizarre, mind-boggling, and metaphysical territory that is a touch opaque in places.
Supremely clever, twisting with parody and acerbic observation, The Woman in Green is a blistering study in satire, full of deranged energy and surreal mayhem. Without a doubt, Lockridge has produced a resoundingly antic and stimulating finale to The Enigma Quartet.
This Editorial Review was written by the Book Review Directory staff. To receive a similarly honest, professional review for one of your own books, click here.