In this novel, a young woman recently emigrated from the Windward Islands (today called Dominica) after her father has died finds herself in the unclear position of a stateless and familyless woman, when such things were not the most stable of situations.
She works partly in the demimonde (the kind of underworld of crime, but specifically vice) and realizes there’s a rough road between that world and any kind of “respectability.” She has love affairs, strong racial opinions, lots of alcohol, and dangerous situations, but at the end, isn’t left with a clear path in her life.
This book talks a lot about the dangers of aligning women’s destinies too strongly with forces out of their control. We have here a smart woman who is bored out of her mind because she can’t really go to college, can’t really work, and can’t really live within society without contacts, so she’s left fall within the cracks. It’s no surprise then, like many many many other people in her situation, that she’s not entirely able to figure out what to do with herself, and so lives in the annals of indecency.
“I walk along imagining that I was going to his house, and the look of the street, and ringing the bell. ‘You’re late,’ perhaps he’d say, ‘I expected you before.’
Then I thought, ‘If I went to that hotel in Berners Street. I’ve got just about enough money on me to pay. They’d say, of course, that they hadn’t got a room if you went in without any luggage. With the hotel half-empty they’d still say that they hadn’t got a room.’ I could imagine so well the girl at the desk saying it that I had to begin to laugh again. The damned way they look at you and their damned voices and the answer’s a lemon as Laurie says.”