A short novel about an obsessive, distructive relationship between two bisexual women. The author is an openly queer woman but you wouldn’t know it from All About Sarah which reads like it was written by a homophobic straight man a century ago. The writing is cliche and weak with shallow characters that have no characterisation outside of their romance, reducing the titular Sarah to an archetype, a manic pixie dream girl, and leaving the narrator completely flat and unbelievable.
Their relationship and their mutual obsession is a downfall for the women, both of their stories ending somewhat ambiguously but with implied death. As The Guardian notes:
“In the great novels of ill-fated passion [...] the story is richly embedded in a social world that makes the lovers feel doomed partly by forces outside their control. Here the two women live ordinary middle-class lives, going to the theatre, taking the narrator’s daughter to school. I couldn’t quite believe in the necessity for them to destroy themselves. Even the breast cancer felt curiously expedient, as though the illness was a necessary consequence of the destruction, rather than a cause of it.”
I am a strong defender of LGBT novels being allowed to portray imperfect characters, unhealthy romance, queer death. However, Delabroy-Allard’s impotence as a writer, the shallowness of this story and the characters means that the absurd and melodramatic demise of the characters inevitably reads as a punishment for the women’s sapphic love.
The Guardian also described All About Sarah as “pushed almost to the point of comedy in a book that still manages to remain humourless” which is especially prominent at the novel’s end when the protagonist, in response to Sarah’s illness/implied death abandons her young child, leaves France for Italy, aimlessly roams around Trieste for a while and then stops eating and drinking, lays down in a bed for several days in a pool of her own piss, and finally perishes like a Victorian maiden dying of a broken heart.
Year of publication:
Country of publication:
Would I recommend this book?
There are great novels about obsessive bisexual love but this isn’t one of them.