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The Queen of the Tambourine [Paperback]

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Item description for The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam...

"Funny and moving."-The New York Times

In prose vibrant and witty, The Queen of the Tambourine traces the emotional breakdown-and eventual restoration-of Eliza Peabody, a smart and wildly imaginative woman who has become unbearably isolated in her prosperous London neighborhood. Eliza must reach the depths of her downward spiral before she can once again find health and serenity. This story of a woman's confrontation with the realities of sanity will delight readers who enjoy the works of Anita Brookner, Sybille Bedford, Muriel Spark, and Sylvia Plath. Winner of the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel of the Year.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   260
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 8"
Weight:   0.66 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2007
Publisher   Europa Editions
ISBN  1933372362  
ISBN13  9781933372365  

Availability  0 units.

More About Jane Gardam

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Jane Gardam has twice won the Whitbread Award, for The Hollow Land, and Queen of the Tambourine. She is also the author of God on the Rocks, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and most recently, Faith Fox.

Jane Gardam was born in 1928.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Authors, A-Z > ( G ) > Gardam, Jane
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary

Reviews - What do customers think about The Queen of the Tambourine?

Do you have a resistance to epistolary fiction?  Nov 25, 2007
Like reading a novel in dialect, I often have an adjustment during the opening pages - or the first few letters - of an epistolary novel. If I had not absolutely loved "Old Filth" I may not have tried "Queen of the Tamborine", but I did, so I did. Thank heavens. It is breathtakingly well written and I fell into it from page one. The protagonist, who appears smug and self-righteous at first, just the kind of person who needs to just get a life and stop interfereing with the lives of others, opens up like a flower into a complex and interesting woman.
I eagerly anticipate re-reading this novel and ferreting out more and more Gardam.
"I never knew my tribe. I've always been on the edge, just hanging about."  Sep 7, 2007
(4.5 stars) Eliza Peabody begins writing to her neighbor Joan, not a close friend, almost immediately after Joan leaves her husband Charles and disappears, leaving behind only a series of addresses around the world where she may be contacted. Eliza takes it upon herself to write to Joan repeatedly, offering unsolicited advice, observations (unintentionally insulting) about Joan's husband and children, and comments about her role as a woman, which she knows that Joan does not share. Joan never answers.

Over the course of more than a year, the letters become longer and more revealing, ultimately showing Eliza to be a frustrated and mentally disturbed woman who may need hospitalization. As she spirals downward and begins to hallucinate, most readers will empathize with her (as much as one can empathize with a meddlesome and impossibly tactless woman) while questioning if anything she says is the truth.

Jane Gardam, with her supremely subtle humor, creates in Eliza a character few readers will be able to resist. Thinking herself a realist who calls a spade a spade, Eliza has no clue that others regard her as rude, unthinking, and self-centered--someone whose lack of awareness leaves her open to accusations of malice. Her messages to Joan, filled with dramatic irony, show her to be far from the "helpful friend" she thinks herself. When Joan sends her a pair of elaborate earrings, resembling tambourines, she is called the "The Queen of the Tambourine" by Barry, a young man dying in the hospice she sometimes visits.

As Eliza goes about her daily life, including her hilarious attendance at a local literary group meeting, the author's ability to create clever satire and wonderful observations about love, marriage, and friendship shine with the candor of one who has little patience with pretension and a person's lack of self-awareness. Few writers can match Gardam's sense of irony, and she is subtle and clever in creating Eliza's letters.

Illustrating the absurdities inherent in a suburban lifestyle that Joan has escaped and which Eliza wants to preserve, Gardam creates a leisurely and assured novel about self-awareness, the opportunities and limitations of marriage, and the constraints of society. The liberating role of sex in a healthy relationship, and the role of fantasy, especially as it relates to sex, infuses the novel. Wry, clever, and thoughtful, this Whitbread Award-winning novel from 1991, newly republished by Europa Editions following the success of Gardam's Old Filth, should expand her literary reputation on this "side of the pond" and gain Gardam many new fans. n Mary Whipple
Strongly recommended  Aug 25, 2006
Dense with delightful detail and shot through with wit and pathos, this is a wonderful novel. It works on several levels: a caustic commentary on contemporary Britain, an unsentimental portrait of stifling Britain past and, at its heart, a moving story of a lonely woman come unhinged. No word is superflous, no character without meaning. The end was disappointing: too tidy and less than convincing, but that's a minor complaint about a startlingly fresh, entertaining and affecting story. I look forward to reading more of Ms. Gardam's work.
Just read it as soon as you can  Dec 3, 2005
Gardam is amazing and this novel is one of a kind, superbly so. Just read it. If I tried to talk about it at all I'd make a mess of it.
Is she, or isn't she, mad?  Nov 5, 2003
Winner of the Whitbread Award for best novel, this is a witty and affecting journey to the brink of madness.

The narrative takes the form of letters from Eliza Peabody, affluent 50ish wife of a senior civil servant, to her equally middle-aged but less dutiful neighbor, Joan. The first letters begin as brief notes, reproaches from a stiff-necked busybody to her hypochondriac neighbor.

But then Joan absconds to wander the Middle East, leaving husband and children behind, and Eliza wonders if she is to blame. She takes in Joan's husband and encourages his attentions. The letters lengthen and become more erratic as Eliza's personality spills out on paper. Her own marriage dissolves when her husband goes off with Joan's husband, and Eliza traces the years of its unraveling between visits to a young man dying of AIDS in a hospice, long walks with the two dogs (hers and Joan's), and musings about the other neighbors.

As it becomes apparent how isolated Eliza is in her South London home, her narrative becomes increasingly suspect. It seems less certain that her husband and Joan's have any relationship other than a desire to escape Eliza. Far from being a most important personage at the hospice, Eliza is shunted off to do the dishes, possibly because she talks too much and inappropriately too.

Yet her self-revelations to Joan are plaintive, appealing and sometimes hilarious. As Eliza reveals herself less of a figure in the world, she becomes more of an individual - a wildly imaginative individual with a flair for anecdotes.

But it seems that not all of Eliza's anecdotes are real. But what is real and what is not becomes increasingly difficult for Eliza herself to determine. Meanwhile she continues to explore her deepest feelings on motherhood (Eliza is childless), marriage and social expectations.

She develops new relationships in the community, particularly with the precocious children of the overbusy curate and his wife. Or does she only wish that she has?

Midway through the novel, everything is suspect, except for Eliza's voice which grows stronger and truer as she sheds expectations- both of and for herself. Gardam brings her protagonist back from the abyss of madness at the end. She also lets the reader know where Eliza has crossed the line between imagination and reality and why.

Unfortunately, to do this, she uses a device which is too simple and detracts from the integrity of its protagonist and the complexity of a marvelous narrative. This ending mars a novel which is otherwise sharply, incisively written with an intriguing heroine balanced on her private desert of shifting sands.


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