Thursday, July 12, 2012

Desert of the Heart

1964, 1990 Naiad edition
Jane Rule
Desert of the Heart
Original price $8.95, purchase price unknown
Worn paperback

While I appreciate that this was a ground-breaking novel, with two female lovers who live happily together, if not necessarily "ever after," the novel itself is desert-dry.  Not only is it not particularly erotic, but it's overly intellectual.  The 1985 movie version, Desert Hearts, is steamier, although I have issues with it because Vivian (Evelyn in the book) is shown as so reluctant, and Cay (the movie's version of Ann) does not have good boundaries about consent.  In the novel, Evelyn had an unconsummated but close relationship with a woman while their husbands were off at war, so she already knows that side of herself, although she's never acted on it before Ann.  In the movie, Cay has to "awaken" Vivian.  Also, Frances, Ann/Cay's sort of stepmother, is far more supportive in the book than in the movie.  The book also addresses bisexuality in a more complex manner than the movie.

The book and the movie both do a fine job of conveying what late 1950s Reno was like.  (They're set in 1958 and '59 respectively.)  However, I find the gambling scenes to be very depressing, as are some of the subplots of the book, such as Virginia's suicide attempt and Janet's baby's death.  If I remember correctly, the movie omits those, as part of the inevitable simplifying process of screen adaptation.

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