At the Bampford School for Girls, conditions are Spartan, discipline is fierce, and love between students is the ultimate crime. Here, 16-year-old Rachel becomes trapped in a tangle of passions she does not fully understand, caught between a formidable headmistress and a passionate and defiant classmate....
|Title||:||The Chinese Garden|
|Number of Pages||:||208 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
The Chinese Garden Reviews
Another gay boarding school novel, and one that benefits from having experience with the genre. (It’s litter with in jokes and references that easily slip by: most people will get, say, the inclusion of Radcliff Hall, but only a reader with experience in the gay-boarding-school field will pick up the namedropping of greats such as Clemence Dane, or my beloved Mädchen in Uniform.) It’s quite self-aware—flipping between 1st and 3rd person, for example, as well as highlighting and deliberately subverting expected tropes. Not much happens, but it happens very beautifully.
The scene of the story is Bampfield College, the time the late 1920's. The main characters include Margaret, Rachel, who is 16, and Bistro, who is 15. A woman named Chief is the head of the college. She has a very mannish appearance.The college is only for girls, and it is in terrible physical shape. Bad food, unheated rooms, and filth seem to characterize the school. The girls are treated in a very harsh manner, the people running the school basically trying to turn them into perfect young gentlemen.In some ways the exercises they put the girls through in bad weather, and the general condition of the school remind me of old Japanese schools that were run in a military fashion. Things could get to be harsh, even cruel.Rachel finds the Chinese Garden, which had been Margaret's secret. As time goes on, Rachel becomes a prefect at the school.Then things go really bad, when Margaret and another girl are caught in bed together nude, and are expelled. Rachel comes under suspicion of possibly being a lesbian. She tries to commit suicide by hanging herself, but it doesn't work.Eventually she's cleared.The book also has an appendix, which is a history of the book and its place in lesbian fiction.Which brings me to my comments. The book is written in a very old style of writing; very, very descriptive, very flowery, with many references to poetry and poets. It makes things seem quite real.As to the connection of this book and lesbian fiction, I'll note that it is not until page 96 of the book that there is anything at all specifically relating to lesbian, and that is a reference to the book The Well of Loneliness. Then it is page 144 before any actual lesbian acts are even referred to, and this is when the adults say that Margaret and the other girl were caught in bed together, nude.Most of the book deals with the incredibly harsh conditions at the school. Some people might assume that some of the adult women that run the school are having physical relationships, but that would be an assumption not based on anything specific. As as girl-girl “friendships” go, there is a very limited number of these in any form.It's an interesting book, but not what I would consider real “lesbian fiction.”
This book was a slow read, although the contradictions and hypocrisy found in words, philosophy, and actions kept me turning the pages. I was keen to understand the meaning behind the words, interactions, and friendships. The "afterward" by Patricia Juliana Smith helped put the story in context as the novel takes place around 1925 and depicts the intolerance and ostracism of lesbians. For me, the numerous themes were conflicting and confusing -- a female boarding school with male overtones, repressed or "behind closed doors" homoeroticism, intolerance, and exploitation. While the themes are confusing in 2014, not so in 1925.
Utterly dreary. The afterword (by Patricia Juliana Smith), which places the book in the larger context of lesbian literature is rather more interesting than the novel itself. I did like the description of the titular garden however, and would love to discover such a place myself.
Rachel Curgenven attends a very strict girls' school. When her close friend Margaret is found in bed with another pupil, Rena, Rachel is accused of helping them. Considerably more frank than most school stories, this book is intended for adults.