Kaye Gibbons | Critical Review by Roz Kavaney

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Kaye Gibbons.
This section contains 353 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Roz Kavaney

Critical Review by Roz Kavaney

SOURCE: "Making Themselves Over," in The Times Literary Supplement, No. 4511, September 15, 1989, p. 998.

In the following excerpt, Kavaney positively reviews A Virtuous Woman.

Kaye Gibbons's second novel, A Virtuous Woman, has the simplicity of a good Country-and-Western song; where her first, Ellen Foster, had all the artifice in the world going for its portrait of a child whose naiveté masks a growing sense of the world's real complexity, here she shows us two adults for whom extremity has revealed the bare bones of life. Ruby, a name chosen because Solomon informs us that the price of the virtuous woman is above it, is in alternate chapters dying of lung cancer and going over her life; in the other chapters, after her death, Jack, her husband, is busy mourning her and a life which always turned in detail to disappointment, whatever the consolation she brought him overall.

The biblical echo of the title reaffirms the novel's sense of people living with traditional values. Jack bemoans the fact that he leaves behind him neither children nor land to affirm his continuance; and Ruby regrets that the disease given by her worthless first husband prevented the former, Jack's pride in the face of her inheritance the latter. The quiet dignity of utterance that they share is built on pride as well as love and sorrow.

In the process of getting to know these two, we learn tantalizing amounts about the lives that surround them; we see the fractious, spoiled Fran, whose family make Ruby their maid for the sheer pleasure of having a genteel white servant, and Burr, her husband, the old friend who takes until the penultimate paragraph of the novel to do the right thing that was in his power all along. We see Ruby learning from an unknown neighbour's gossip of the stabbing of her first husband and Jack spreading her perfume in the hope of raising her ghost. A Virtuous Woman dares to do the ordinary thing, to transfigure the commonplace into a plain language that speaks with as much complexity as the rococo might, but with more appropriateness.

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This section contains 353 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Roz Kavaney
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