Cows and Horses
by Barbara Wilson
Copyright Year: 1988
Publisher: The Eighth Mountain Press
Format: Trade Paperback
No. of Pages: 200
No. In Series:
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While getting over the break-up of her relationship, Bet goes on holiday
and meets Kelly. — From Publishers Weekly This novel begins with the dissolution of a 10-year relationship between two Seattle lesbians, Bet and Norah. After years of philandering and lying about it, Norah has left Bet, although the two continue their futon business together. On a weekend spent at the island home of Mary Ann, one of Norah’s former flings, Bet meets Kelly, who pursues her. Bet finally succumbs to Kelly’s avowals of love, only to find that Kelly plans to move in with Mary Ann. Bet is hurt yet again, but after moping around for a few weeks and getting into rows with Norah, she finally accepts the fact that she is alone. Wilson (Sisters of the Road et al. ) has a keen sense for the sights and sounds of the Pacific Northwest, and her characterizations are supple. However, the graphic sex and characters’ earnest discourses on sexual politics may preclude a wide audience. Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. From Independent Publisher While Cows and Horses fails to demonstrate the tight structure and intensity of Barbara Wilson’s short stores, it points to a new direction in lesbian fiction-a. movement away from depicting the ‘correct line. ‘ Until recently, many novels by lesbian authors suffered from a stamp of conformity forged by then-current trends in lesbian-feminist political ideology . Characters required a certain degree of verbal flippancy and physical androgyny. The idea of role-playing, of butch and femme, was unmentionable, as was financial stability, monogamy, and the wearing of pretty clothes. Cows and Horses ignores this nonsense and leads the readers into the lives of a small group of women who have stumbled upon each other through a chain of events surrounding the breakup of a ten-year-old relationship between two of the women. Through this small group, Wilson offers us a catalogue of lesbian lifestyles: the earth mother, the radical politico, the stone butch, and others. While such differences are a relatively large part of the story, judgments are not made. The central issue is personal, not political, that being the rebounds and delusions one suffers through the loss of a love and the necessity of accepting the pain of such a loss before real healing can begin. Such art internal plot offers little action to keep the reader turning the page, but one does, simply to savour the realism and sensitivity of the author on how loss can function as a motivating force for change. Cows and Horses is not Wilson’s best effort but the characters are strong, the narrative is sympathetic, and the theme is one with which her readers will identify. The warmth and attention to detail that marks the author’s previous work is there, and it should be interesting to watch the development of this fine writer of short stories into, hopefully, an equally fine novelist.
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