A review of Baglady by Christina Manolescu

Published on May 1, 2006

Christina Manolescu

Prince Chameleon Press

This blackly comic novel tells the story of Ashley Grimes, from her youth with an astrologer father and mail-order-bride stepmother (whose lack of English was one of her selling points) to her descent into baglady-dom. Ashley stands for some of the women who came of age in the 60s, leading a less-than-focused existence: marriage, divorce, working for peace, working to make a less-than-adequate living, being bullied into business ventures which led nowhere, and also being buffeted by the winds of fate.

Grimes’s saving grace is her wry sense of humour. Although it doesn’t protect her from her misadventures there is a coda of acceptance, a figurative shrug of the shoulders, which provides the novel with a disarming thread.

Post-divorce, Grimes tries to find companionship through classified ads, but that fizzles out. In desperation, she tries singles dances:

I appeared one frosty evening at the St. Valentine Singleheart’s Dance which was held in the draughty basement of our church. Sitting on my chilly folding chair, feeling like an outdated newspaper in a railway carriage, I waited to be picked up by some traveler desperate with ennui. Presently I was claimed by a genial fellow named Luciano and we vied with one another for the Annual Lackrhthym-Tonedeaf Awards, lumbering like a couple of uncoordinated drunkards, hither and thither across the floor.

Grimes’s search for love is doomed to failure, but her life as a landlady has possibilities. She keeps on trying – and the book ends on a note of cautious hope. Mary Fitzpatrick’s soft, romantic, black and white illustrations add considerable charm to Baglady. mRb

Margaret Goldik is a former editor of the Montreal Review of Books.



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