I first read ‘Woman’s World’ when it was published in paperback. After thoroughly enjoying Rawle’s excellent new novel, ‘The Card’, I decided it was time to for a reread; I even persuaded my Book group to join me. Rereading the book reinforced the feeling that whilst ‘The Card’ is a great novel, ‘Woman’s World’ is nothing less than a work of genius.
Five years in the making, ‘Woman’s World’ is constructed entirely from Women’s magazine’s dating from the 50s and 60s. This unusual medium gives Rawle’s text a richness that goes beyond mere narrative, character and plot. Additional texture is added through the phrases chosen and the way in which they have been pieced together.
The story is a subtle one, leant extra nuance through Rawle’s choice of media. The tale is told in the direct, easy to read style favoured by Women’s magazines. An entire novel written directly in this breezy style would be a very peculiar read, but in collage form it works very well. Rawle has subverted the original form of his words to create something new. As much as anything else this is a book about the use and versatility of language.
There is also a great physical element to the book. Use of different fonts, point size and even how words have been pasted together, give little hints or expansions of the wider story. Rawle has also clipped in pictures from the magazines, that give the words greater meaning. It was only after a second read and a lively book-group discussion, that the true depth of the book became apparent.
It’s difficult to talk too much about the plot of Woman’s World, it will spoil the novel’s central mystery. Whilst it is a markedly different book to The Card, the two novels carry some similarities. Most strikingly, at the heart of both are lives interrupted.
Woman’s World is in great danger of becoming a forgotten masterpiece, which is a great shame. Rawle’s treatment goes beyond that of a simple gimmick, to truly expanding the boundaries of literature as a form. A unique and very special novel.