Lucy Ellman is a revelation. She's an American expat who has taken up residence in England and has acquired the saucy edginess of some of the better English satirists (think of a female Waugh or Amis). While maybe not yet in that league stylistically, she is, at least on the basis of this book, equally as funny.
Ellman's central character, Dot Butser starts out relatively pleased with herself, with her middle class English seaside lifestyle and with her sexually charged husband, whom she believes to be a deep sea fisherman. As the story unfolds, Dot's universe unravells. Hilariously. Bit by bit, Dot comes to see the sordid truth behind the comfortable facade that she has created for herself. She embarks on a quest of self-discovery, depression, suicide, rebirth (several rebirths, in fact, as an assortment of creatures that will have Buddhist and Hindus everywhere chuckling knowingly to themsleves). Finally she comes full circle, in a nice, ironic ending.
Readers who are offended by course language should steer clear. Ellman has the vocabulary of your typical longshoreman. She's pretty graphic about bodily functions and sexual proclivities. But she's not Andrew Dicey Clay. There is a point to her vulgarity, as it reflects the environment she so wittily demolishes. Like all good satirists, she's not too high on the present state of society, neither in England, nor even more negatively, in America.
About the tea cosies. It will give you a brief idea of Ellman's style and humor to illustrate Dot's preoccupation with them. It drives Dot's philandering husband, John, up the wall that she is so obsessed with the things:
"Particularly perturbing to him was Dot's TEA-COSY COLLECTION. They reminded him of his grandma's UNDIES, saggy, baggy and stained.... . Dot's tea cosies were ancient, home-made WOOLEN concoctions, knitted by women inexplicably driven to provide the world with decorative structures in which to house teapots. "
Some readers may be put off by the stylistic device of using ALL CAPS for emphasis, however, I found it an integral part of the humor. I didn't always understand what motivated the choices for why particular words were so emphasized, but I wasn't distracted by it.
Ellman has a great satirical eye and comedic voice. I'm certainly looking forward to reading more titles from this lady. If you're a fan of British satire, or just enjoy a fun, brief read now and again, this short, episodic novel will fill the bill. I had to deduct one star for one Ellman device that gets a bit tiresome after a while. She's obsessed with lists. Sometimes the lists are rather clever and funny. At other times they are mind numbing and one wants to have done with them. In the overall scheme, it's a minor annoyance and Ellman fully succeeded in keeping me entertained for 200 pages.