Friday, February 26, 2016

Book Review: The Housewife and the Assassin

(On Blogjob, this one was tagged: adultery in fictionassassination in fictionmartial arts in fictionNorthern California in fictionnovels about runningquirky romance novel.)

A Fair Trade Book
Title: The Housewife and the Assassin 
Author: Susan Trott
Date: 1979
Publisher: St. Martin's
ISBN: 0-312-39346-6
Length: 264 pages
Quote: "I don't know what you mean by love, Ephraim thought irritably. 'I don't know' was an expression that Ephraim never used, because it could be a cry of anguish, of helplessness, and he was never helpless or anguished. So, when he heard himself think 'I don't know,' he suspected that this aikido, this way, was not good for him."
Ephraim is a professional assassin, very good at what he does. He is, of course, usually hired to kill dangerous men, by dangerous men. He is less prepared to kill a rather foolish, emotional housewife who is having an affair with an old friend of hers, whom another woman, old, rich, and mean, intends to marry by any means necessary. However, when he's taken a job, he just does it.
Augusta is a fellow runner, a fellow redhead, nice-looking, friendly, and likable, although not honorable. Before the adulterous affair she may "have never done anything worse than build two bedrooms behind [her] husband's back," her husband being ignorant enough not to realize that Augusta has inherited an estate, become an art collector, and renovated the whole house while he's been working overtime, but she's been building positively steroidal lying skills.
Ephraim, who has generally avoided personal relationships so far, finds that he'd really rather sleep with Augusta than shoot her. Nevertheless, he is honorable, and has a reputation to maintain.
Mainly because this is one of the novels in which the unrepentant hippie writer, Susan Trott, expresses all the beauty she has projected into the general ambiance of Northern California, Ephraim will find a way both to shoot Augusta, and also to love her and rescue her from her boring marriage.
Can you believe such a novel? I can't believe it for a minute. I can, however, enjoy Trott's quirky, witty vision. If I don't believe that the plots of her novels have ever happened to any real person living or dead, I do believe that she knows real people who look like, talk like, think like, and behave like her fictional characters. I enjoy knowing those people through her. Therefore I enjoy her novels.
(Part of the fascination is that, long ago, I was in Northern California, and I never saw any of the people and places Trott seems to see there, not even in the same towns. Mostly what I saw seemed to be mean people, smog, and at best extremely weird trees. Through Susan Trott, however, I've seen people like Augusta, who feels "giddy, mildly elated" while "basking in the beauty" of the local fruit stand. Reading about Augusta reminds me to look back on the memories I have and remember that, in fact, the fruit was beautiful. So, in their weird way, were the trees.)
If you think novels should be realistic or moralistic or both, The Housewife and the Assassin is not for you. If you enjoy looking at the world in a fresh, quirky way, if you can remember that when real people are shot they usually die and when real people cheat on their mates they usually regret it, this novel might be for you.
Apparently Susan Trott is still alive, so this is a Fair Trade Book. If you buy it here, by sending $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment to either address at the very bottom of the screen, I'll send $1 to Trott or a charity of her choice. If you add three of her other mainstream novels to the package, for a total of $25, I'll send Trott or her charity $4.