Evelyn Lau’s book Other Women is a difficult book to recommend whole-heartedly. Alternating between first and third person, it tells the story of an artist, Fiona, who is recovering from a 15-month affair with successful businessman, Raymond- twenty years her senior and married.
The problem with the book isn’t the story (what little story there is)- anyone who has ever had an obsessive relationship with the wrong person will certainly relate. The problem isn’t the prose- Lau can certainly write, although I would have to say that this story is over-written- nothing is stated simply, there’s a metaphor for every emotion. For me the problem is the characters. Raymond isn’t at all likeable; he comes across as narcissistic (and in fact Fiona actually says this of him) and although he once cautions Fiona that she mustn’t let him hurt her- he yanks her along a romantic trail of self-destruction and worse, Fiona isn’t the only affair he’s ever had. Fiona isn’t much more sympathetic. The whole novel is spent lamenting Raymond’s loss. Fiona drinks and compares every other man to Raymond- and all this for a relationship that is never even consummated.
Still, it was hard not to be swept along by Lau’s poetic prose- even though I could have cared less about the characters and their rather soggy affair.