The Queen of the Tambourine

The Queen of the Tambourine

3.55 (956 ratings by Goodreads)
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Eliza Peabody is one of those dangerously blameless women who believe they have God in their pocket. She is a modern-day Florence Nightingale, always up at the Hospice or the Wives' club; she is too enthusiastic; she talks too much. Her concern for the welfare of her wealthy south London neighbours even extends to ingenuous, well-meaning notes of unsolicited advice under the door. It is just such a one-sided correspondence that heralds Eliza's undoing. Did her letter have something to do with Joan's abrupt disappearance from number forty-one? What to make of the long absences of her husband and Joan's, and of the two men's new, inseparable friendship? And why will no one else on Rathbone Road speak of Joan? As Eliza's own life seems to disintegrate, she finds that, despite the pity and embarrassment with which her neighbours greet her, she is at last being drawn into their lives - although not in the way she had once fantasised about. This is a sharp, poignant and wickedly funny tale of love, heartache and more

Product details

  • Paperback | 240 pages
  • 126 x 196 x 18mm | 160g
  • Little, Brown Book Group
  • Abacus
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0349102260
  • 9780349102269
  • 149,253

Review quote

** 'Brilliant' SUNDAY TIMES ** 'Marvellously subtle and moving' THE TIMES ** 'An ingenious, funny, satirical, sad story...Vivid and poignant' INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY ** 'Excellently done ... manic delusions were never so persuasive ... very moving when it is not being exceedingly funny' ANITA BROOKNER ** 'Wickedly comic ... masterly and hugely enjoyable' DAILY MAILshow more

About Jane Gardam

Jane Gardam has been awarded the Heywood Hill Literary Prize for a lifetime's contribution to the enjoyment of literature. She has twice won a Whitbread Award and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her most recent novel, OLD FILTH, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize more

Review Text

The 1991 Whitbread Award winner, by the English author of Crusoe's Daughter (1986), etc., sardonically traces the steady fall (or is it rise?) into madness of a suburban wife with too little to do and too many horrors to shut out of her mind. The neighbors have always considered Eliza Peabody eccentric, with with her loudly voiced opinions, fearless stride, and the pious, admonishing notes she distributes for their enlightenment and edification. But when one of those notes - to Joan, across the street - incites that elusive woman to abandon her family for far more exotic locales, Eliza seems really to go off the deep end. Her blizzard of follow-up notes to Joan, which comprise all of Gardam's story, first rush to apologize for her forwardness, then capably detail Eliza's efforts to care for Joan's gloomy husband as they wait for the prodigal wife's return. Eliza envies Joan's courage and adventurousness, being herself a well-educated but rather stodgy woman whose life as the childless spouse of a Foreign Office official has petered out into mindless rounds of volunteer work and shopping. Her notes explore the secrets of the suburb's other residents while resolutely ignoring the fact that Eliza's husband has eloped with Joan's, that Joan's unmarried, college-aged daughter has gotten pregnant, and that Eliza herself, in her terrible loneliness, has begun to neglect her garden, her home, and herself. Eliza may be going insane - her neighbors have begun to treat her with the wary kindness one reserves for the near-psychotic - but at least she's lost her self-righteous edge. As her letters move from stilted lectures to multiple-paged flights of glorious fancy, the roots of her misery begin to emerge, until all her inventions seem a perfectly rational response to the events that prefaced her destruction. A loony, funny tale - and an author with a refreshing take on the familiar. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

956 ratings
3.55 out of 5 stars
5 18% (173)
4 37% (354)
3 31% (301)
2 10% (91)
1 4% (37)
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