Book review: A Room Full of Women, by Elisabeth Nonas

The GLBTRT has been reviewing books and movies in its newsletter since the early 1990s. Trace the evolution of queer publishing through these historic reviews. This review was originally published in Vol. 3, No. 1 & 2, Fall 1990/Winter 1991.

Cover of A Room Full of WomenA Room Full of Women. By Elisabeth Nonas. Naiad Press, 1990. (ISBN 0-94148-369-X).

Elisabeth Nonas’ second novel, A Room Full of Women, is a readable, sexy book with mostly believable characters and no easy answers. Set in and around present-day Los Angeles, the book shifts back and forth between two main characters, Blair Wilder and Natalie Bazarian. Each women finds the patterns of her life disrupted and is faced with difficult situations and choices.

Blair, 35, has spent the past several years running from intimacy in a series of casual affairs. Now she is frightened by the potential for commitment with a new lover. Blair’s family also makes demands on her as she faces the ordeal of what to do about her estranged mother who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Natalie, who is turning 40, finds herself questioning the validity of most of the foundations on which she has built her life: her ten-year committed relationship with Annie Weiss, her stressful career as a real estate attorney, her position as a role model in the lesbian community, even her way of dressing.

Nonas tells the story of Blair and Natalie and their friends and lovers through an intricate series of flashbacks and shifting protagonists. She writes very well, showing equal facility when describing a business meeting or lovemaking. Her female characters are complex adults facing serious choices. A significant portion of the novel focuses on the women’s work life, which is realistically portrayed. Some of the men in the novel seem rather one-dimensional, but they are minor characters. Blair’s brother, Paul stands out as a realistic man who plays a larger role.

This book is part of a growing body of lesbian and gay literature in which the characters’ homosexuality is not the central theme. Because of this and the age of most of the characters, it will appeal to readers seeking something more than the usual girl meets girl romance. Recommended for all libraries with contemporary fiction collections.

Reviewed by Suzy Taraba
Duke University
Durham, North Carolina

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