Review: Paul Bowles’ “The Sheltering Sky”

by writereaderly

paul bowles sheltering skyLikewise bought to further KAM’s quest, and likewise snuck in before the on-send. I thought I’d already read The Sheltering Sky, then gainsaid myself, then realised I had actually read it but couldn’t remember the outcome – which is a little odd, considering how dreadful the final section is. The novel tells of bored bourgeois “travellers” – *never* tourists – Port(er) and Kit Moresby (yes, that’s his name), their bored bourgeois hanger-on, Somethingorother Tunner (no, I can’t remember his name), and their dramatic misadventures in North Africa just after WWII. I’d been enjoying the desperation-born philosophising of the first part – “we’re so rich and wandering so aimlessly, what could our lives really be about?” – mostly because the marital heroes are seeking their transcendence so poetically through the beautifully drawn landscapes. Even the second part, stretching belief as it does because of the heroine’s ridiculous fecklessness, had its merits as philosophy. The third part, however: puh-LEASE! Apparently, if you repeatedly rape a woman, and imprison her so you can keep doing so, she starts craving it and really loves you. And if you describe it all really shallowly, because she’s a monumentally shallow woman, then really you’re focussing on her precarious mental state. Humph. And — for good measure — WTF?! All of the first-world self-centredness I could take, and the somewhat strained plotting with those objectionable secondary-character Australians, but that level of misogyny is intolerable and utterly exceeded the narrative’s needs. The predicted “better’n good” rating vaporised in the last 50pp, and I reckon you can stop at Part II without losing out.

Where it came from: Bookshop
Time and manner of reading: Three or four good solid reads, with abruptly dashed enjoyment
Where it went:
Reminds me of/that: Lars von Trier and his sick adorations of women’s suffering, but before that, the contrast with Isabelle Eberhardt’s life in North Africa
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch;The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon;Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling