The Friendly Young Ladies: A Novel
, 2003 - Fiction
- 293 pages
Set in 1937, The Friendly Young Ladies is a romantic comedy of off-Bloomsbury bohemia. Sheltered, naÔve, and just eighteen, Elsie leaves the stifling environment of her parentsí home in Cornwall to seek out her sister, Leo, who had run away nine years earlier. She finds Leo sharing a houseboat, and a bed, with the beautiful, fair-haired Helen. While Elsieís arrival seems innocent enough, it is the first of a series of events that will turn Helen and Leoís contented life inside out. Soon a randy young doctor is chasing after all three women at once, a neighborly friendship begins to show an erotic tinge, and long-quiet ghosts from Leoís past begin to surface. Before long, no one is sure just who feels what for whom.
Mary Renault wrote this delightfully provocative novel in the early 1940s, creating characters that are lighthearted, charming, and free-spirited partly in answer to the despair characteristic of Radclyffe Hallís The Well of Loneliness or Lillian Hellmanís The Childrenís Hour. The result is a witty and stylish story that offers exceptional insight into the world of upcoming writers and artists of in 1930s London, chronicling their rejection of societyís established sexual mores and their heroic pursuits of art and life.