Content Warning: the book uses the word “Negro” to maintain contemporary language.
Dolly Dingle, Lesbian Landlady by Monica Nolan is the last of the Lesbian Career Girls series. That is, so far. I wrote to Nolan on Facebook to discover she’s got another one in the works . . . but also a day job in the way.
The Lesbian Career Girl books are interesting in that they mimic 1960s pulp novels. I included some pictures of pulp novels and a brief discussion in my review of Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary. You can read the 2nd book, Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher, as a stand-alone novel, but it’s best to read Lois Lenz (#1); Maxie Mainwaring, Lesbian Dilettante (#3); and Dolly Dingle (#4) in order.
If I’ve totally lost you, please read my review below to get a sense of how fun a pulp novel satire can be!
Dolly Dingle was a child actress who is still trying to maintain her career in her 30s. She lives in a a boarding house called the Magdalena Arms for young women who have moved to the big city and whose parents want someone to watch their little girls. Surprise — the house is full of lesbians! The book implies Dolly moved in when she was a young woman, but never left. So, when their aging alcoholic housemother, Mrs. DeWitt, falls and breaks her hip, it’s only natural that veteran boarder Dolly take over. Besides, she’s old enough that the only acting role she can get anymore is playing someone’s mother! What an insult! But the board of trustees for the Arms is threatening to shut the place down in the name of progress. Can Dolly save the Arms? Can she find her right career path? Will she find a girl to love along the way?
Dolly is a heartier character that the three previous titular women. She’s a bit older, wiser, and more determined, so I took a liking to her. The plot had a mystery like all of the Lesbian Career Girl books, but this one was less convoluted. Honestly, I was confused at the end of Maxie Mainwaring because the mystery got so tangled among so many characters. Dolly was a fantastically plotted last book.
There are many sexual scenes in Dolly Dingle, but Nolan never gets overly descriptive. Instead, she relies on fun language and suggestion to let you know what’s happening. This is especially funny when Dolly gets hot and heavy with a clarinet player — the music puns abound!
Puns and metaphors were a great way to show me what Dolly was thinking in a playful, creative way:
But Arlene was so lovely and troubled, the housemother side of Dolly couldn’t bear to hurt her. Her polished sheen reminded the landlady of an out-of-season peach you purchased at the supermarket; you couldn’t believe something that looked so perfect wouldn’t taste good, and you wondered if it just needed time to ripen.
Notice how sexual, yet not sexual, the language is. The use of alliteration also makes sexual scenes playful: “With difficulty, Dolly pulled away from the carnally-minded carrot top . . .”
The over-use of alliteration is purposeful and amazingly done in all four Lesbian Career Girls books, but I have to say, Nolan cranked the dial to 11 in Dolly Dingle. Here’s an extreme example from a time when Dolly has called Maxie, who now lives in France, to ask to borrow some money, but Maxie has spent it all opening a restaurant called Buffalo Girls (in France!):
She wished the dabbling dilettante every success in her quixotic quest to conquer the critical palates of Paris.
Now, I couldn’t quit laughing at how silly this line is — especially since I was reading the book aloud to my husband, one chapter each night! The entire book isn’t written this way, though, so don’t panic if you fear a novel of tongue twisters.
The Lesbian Career Girl series has been a great addition to my personal library, and as soon as Monica Nolan writes another one, I’m going to be sure to buy it and support her work. I know a lot of my blog friends like to read the newest bestselling novel that’s getting a lot of press, but if you can support (buy the book, ask your library to get it, request it for a present) smaller presses for the amazing, unique work they’re doing, you can add some meaningful press of your own.