Mrs Caliban by Rachel Ingalls
Difficult to beat a paragraph like this: “And she was halfway across the checked linoleum floor of her nice safe kitchen when the screen door opened and a gigantic six-foot-seven-inch frog-like creature shouldered its way into the house and stood stock-still in front of her, crouching slightly, and staring straight at her face.” But unlike, say, The Further Adventures of the Creature from the Black Lagoon where a lone woman, say, is harassed and scared to within an inch of her life (hello Fay Wray) Mrs Caliban swerves off to become a sly and witty exploration of suburban ennui, deceitful husbands and the ravages of mourning. Left to someone like John Updike, the main character’s trajectory would be a collision course with another great white American male, instead the frog-like creature called Larry, who’s on the run from the authorities, proves to be a bigger catch than any man. Sensitive, caring, with a penchant for massive bags of a avocados it seems to be exactly what, the book’s hero, Dorothy Caliban, needs at this dismal point in her life. But how can this unlikely affair go on with the net tightening every day? At one point I thought a la Patricia Highsmith’s Carol, our two heroes were going to make a dash across America to somewhere like, er, the Florida Keys? That Mrs Caliban doesn’t proceed in this way says much about the extraordinary literary chops Rachel Ingalls had at her command. To reveal more would be a spoiler too far. Mrs Caliban, first published in 1982, is a great addition to the Faber Editions series.
Published by Faber – Faber Editions series - £8.99