‘Maxine’ by Alice Lenkiewicz


I took a break from galleries and computers yesterday, put my feet up and read a book. Something I have not done for quite a while. I didn’t want anything too long or heavy so this 86 page novella by artist and poet Alice Lenkiewicz was ideal. I read half in the morning while sipping coffee in the Quarter cafe and the rest whilst half-listening to the football news in the afternoon.
According to the synopsis ‘The novella explores a brief lapse in the life of Maxine, a bored housewife living in the 1950s. Realising that her life is uninteresting and lacking in meaning she strives to travel back in time where she encounters the muses and artists from famous ancient masterpieces.’
I found it a bit difficult at first as its not very linear at all but I soon got used to it. The book is split into Incidents rather than Chapters and we meet a different poet (A-F) and are introduced to an artist or painting from the past in each incident. Alice has also drawn an illustration to go with each title and short poems are used to break up the narrative.
In the present day (or at least 1950s onwards) story various issues relating to the role of women in marriage are examined, Maxine has to have her husband’s dinner on the table when he gets home and she meekly follows his advice about what she should do with her life, etc. Meanwhile she travels back in time to have adventures that make her reassess her life and what it is she really wants.
The book finishes with a fictional interview with both Maxine and the author where they explain what the book is all about which is an unusual device I haven’t seen before. Better than those pages of notes you get with the old classics.
I enjoyed it, it satisfied my need to have a relaxing escape into a short story with the added bonus that now I want to find out more about some of the artists and painters featured. So now I’m going to Google ‘Artemisia Gentileschi Judith and her Maidservant’.
You can order the book from Amazon or the publishers Bluechrome or Blackwells.

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