A lost feminist classic that is equal parts domestic drama and international intrigue. Shirley and Coenraad’s affair has been going on for decades, but her longing for him is as desperate as ever. But something has happened, and Coenraad sends Shirley (who prefers to be known as “Lola Montez”) to Toronto, the last place she wants to go.
...arresting and unforgettable ... Now, eight years after the author’s death, this new edition from New York Review of Books Classics offers readers in the United States a not-to-be-missed opportunity to rediscover an important and underrated voice ... Weinzweig’s slim and increasingly surreal volume defies easy comparison ... Perhaps better than any spy thriller.
Originally published in 1980, Basic Black with Pearls is a lauded (if lost) feminist classic that unravels the ennui and desperation of the disregarded woman ... It echoes narratives like Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and even Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays; its taut prose exploring the roles available to women, tinged with an evolving suggestion of madness made by a uniquely female lot ... Weinzweig is certainly deserving of a new crop of readers this new edition is meant to entice – her brisk style and tone remain fresh to a contemporary audience, and her subject matter is still disturbingly relevant.
When I first read Helen Weinzweig’s Basic Black with Pearls several years ago, I emerged in the sort of daze that happens when a book seems to ferret out your most secret thoughts and hopes. Since then I’ve described the book to others as an 'interior feminist espionage novel' ... The interior nature of Basic Black is central to its unfolding ... Basic Black with Pearls contains overt references to Virginia Woolf and covert ones to feminist classics like Kate Chopin’s The Awakening ... These novels describe women not only breaking away from conventions but filled with desire and ambition that are almost too much to bear, a secret from themselves. Weinzweig had to search out these books to counteract decades of reading male-dominated narratives, which she needed to reject to construct her own style ... A novel needs an ending, but Basic Black with Pearls manages to subvert that requirement too.