Monday, 14 January 2013

Beebo Brinker by Ann Bannon

Plot (taken from

Jack Mann finds Beebo Brinker (real name Betty Jean — she was unable to pronounce it as a child) wandering the streets of Greenwich Village. Beebo is 18 years old, tall and handsome, vacillating between overconfidence and vulnerability after leaving her family's farm in Wisconsin for New York City. Beebo is clearly welling up with a terrible secret that forced her to move east, and guilt that comes with leaving her father alone.

Jack helps Beebo get a job delivering pizzas (one of the advantages is that she can wear pants) for Pete, who is a little creepy, and his wife who cooks. Jack also allows Beebo to live with him until she gets on her feet, and allows her the time and space to ask the questions he knows she needs to ask. When she admits her frank admiration for a woman she sees, Jack tells her about lesbians, and she reacts with obvious fascination. He escorts her to several gay bars in the Village where she is astonished and touched by what she recognizes in herself.

After being treated cruelly by a vindictive woman playing a game with Pete, Beebo happens upon Paula one evening at her apartment, and it is Paula who verifies the suspicion of Beebo's sexuality. She is roused a couple days later to make a delivery to the apartment of a rather outrageous movie star, Venus Bogardus, who lives with her lonely teenaged son whom Beebo befriends. Beebo is infatuated and unnerved by Venus, who proposes that Beebo join them to return to California as company for her son — and to bridge the gap between them. Venus, in turn, divulges her past loves with men and women and seduces Beebo.

As Venus rehearses for a television show, Beebo learns her new precarious place at Venus' ranch in California negotiating around Venus' business-minded husband, her public persona, and her vulnerable son. She is essentially, kept in secret. It dissatisfies her and she begins to miss Paula. She is seen briefly with Venus in public and it causes gossip columnists to start asking questions, and Venus' husband warns her to stay away from Venus in public. But on the night of the show, Venus' son has an epileptic seizure and cuts his head open. Beebo must find Venus at a party celebrating the show's end, but is intercepted by her husband, who beats her in a rage before she can tell Venus what has happened.

The morning papers unleashed rumors of Venus being a lesbian. Unwilling to live in secret with Venus, Beebo returns to New York to recover while Venus and her husband appear happily in public. After a while, Beebo goes to find Paula again, who is thrilled to see her once more. Paula assures her that love can be better and they decide to see for themselves how.

Rating 4*- After reading ‘I Am a Woman’ I decided to have a look at some of the other novels in the series. This novel is very different to the first, and although it includes some of the same characters it is somewhat more mysterious. The characters reveal themselves in a more subtle way and live their lives, as homosexuals, very differently in the way Laura does in ‘I Am a Woman’.

I love the pull of New York City in these novels, and more importantly the importance of Greenwich Village. The characters living in the city are described with fantastic detail and the insight in the 1960’s allows for a very different perception of the people in the novel.

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