A novel about two women, Flannery and Anne, each at a personal turning point, and the circumstances that lead to their reunion, set twenty years after their brief but passionate affair, chronicled in Sylvia Brownrigg's earlier novel, Pages for You.
Brownrigg so accurately depicts the experience of women who love both men and women that it is downright uncanny ... In conveying the experience of bisexuality, as well as the emotional reflection on that experience, Brownrigg is humane and smart enough to be funny even where the subject is, underneath the surface, painful ... There is nothing of the parable in these two books. They are not allegories or lessons about how to be a queer woman in the world. It is not wrong to have babies, and it isn’t wrong to marry men or not marry men. It is not wrong to be too young or too old, to be more or less into girls at whatever particular age or stage one happens to be. For this simple reason, reading Brownrigg’s novels feels like entering a fictional world that is less fussy, more real. Mainstream fiction could do with substantially more fiction about romance between teenagers and between middle-aged women. For now, we have these pages.
...[a] deeply thoughtful, absorbing novel ... Readers will be glad to know that it’s not strictly necessary to read Pages for You first, since Brownrigg has efficiently built that novel’s essence into this sequel. In fact, reading You after Her (which I did) provides a fascinating treat, allowing us to travel back in time and eavesdrop on its characters’ younger selves ... Brownrigg has set herself a stiff challenge, which is to fully inhabit the minds, hearts and voices of two seasoned, gifted, but utterly distinct women: one a self-questioning novelist, the other an admired, authoritative-yet-vulnerable, semi-dislocated academic. That mission is accomplished compellingly. We’re glad to come to know these women, and to be taught by what happens between them. Reading (or rereading) Pages for You, as a kind of coda, makes it even better.
Slowly – all too slowly, for Brownrigg is awkward with plot – the two women converge. The meeting is delayed until the final third of the novel, and their lives and problems in the 20-year gap are narrated according to a principle of detailed recapitulation ... Where Pages for You is ecstatic and poetic, the style of Pages for Her can seem overblown and cliched, as it seeks to raise its romance material into the sublime ... The scenes between loving mother and lovable daughter are the best thing in Pages for You. We feel Flannery’s dilemma acutely. But the issue of power relations between the sexes is skewed by Brownrigg’s grotesque stereotyping of Flannery’s husband Charles. A subtler portrait would have made Flannery’s predicament more complex and interesting ... Pages for Her is a romance novel which elevates and camouflages its generic elements by presenting them as reflections on women’s literary creativity: erotic love is treated as the crucible of true writing.