LOST GIRLS AND LOVE HOTELS by Catherine Hanrahan (Viking), 208 pages, $26 cloth. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
I see a pattern developing -- 30-something women with a tragic backstory write about getting laid and doing too many drugs. No one's done it better than Katrina Onstad in How Happy To Be, but Catherine Hanrahan's first novel, Lost Girls And Love Hotels, shows huge potential.
Margaret, in flight-attendant school in Tokyo, is fascinated by the city's love hotels, where she takes guys for the occasional quick fuck. She does this even as she can't forget the persistent news flashes concerning a young Western woman who has disappeared and is presumed dead. And even as she fears danger, she takes up with a married Japanese gangster.
Her party pal, the beautiful druggie Ines, a very well-developed character, happily helps Margaret forget her woes especially the schizophrenic brother she's abandoned back home by dispensing all manner of booze and designer pharmaceuticals.
The story peaks when Margaret gets herself into what could be an extremely dangerous situation at Hotel Diskrete. Despite the first-person narration that let's us know the worst can't have happened, the episode is almost unbearably tense.
The writing is inconsistent, and Margaret's sometimes banal observations and alcohol-fuelled encounters grow dull. But the flashbacks to her brother's descent into madness are very well executed, and a brief section on intimacy right in the centre of the story shows awesome insight.
Both demonstrate that Hanrahan has the chops to deliver more than just the tired "Ooh, look at me, I'm such a bad girl" stuff.
Let's have it.