Plot (taken from waterstones.com)
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.