I found Janey to be enormously entertaining, and was sorry to have the book end. The only quibble I have with the story was that I found Janey’s empathetic
response to her adolescent niece to be too great a change. While I had trouble believing that short interchange, I found everything else about the book to be engaging and thought provoking.
Janey is a marvelous book, featuring a decaying town and unforgettable characters. From our first encounter with Janey’s unrelenting bitterness to her grudging acceptance of her own humanity, this self-proclaimed “thorny bitch” pierces our hearts and minds with her alternating pain and passion. Janey Heracles is a sculptor, recently abandoned by her husband of many years, and living spartanly in her studio loft. When her sister demands her involvement in the sale of their parent’s ancient hotel in the Berkshire town of Thebes, Janey embarks on a journey that tests her deep cyicism. Each of the twelve sections of the book are named after one of the twelve labors of Heracles (Hercules) in Greek mythology, and loosely reflect those conquests in Janey’s heroic struggle to defeat her demons. Along the way, the physical and emotional challenges that she must overcome, enable her to grow in strength and compassion. Among the characters populating Janey’s world are a gay artist whose acceptance of her eccentricity and concern for her wellbeing provide an emotional respite for her aching heart, her sister, Laura, whose bourgeois life is the antithesis of everything Janey holds dear, and the deeply scarred, Bugs, an aging rock and roll DJ whose buoyant personality masks an awareness that his time has passed. To Janey, everyone she meets is an adversary. Each bombards her with a gauntlet of truths she must face to move forward with her life. Janey’s richly nuanced story with its evocative settings and deeply textured characters, is both smart and pleasurable reading.
Matturro’s books are a master class in unique and fascinating female characters; no matter how out-of-the-mainstream they may be, he treats them with honesty and empathy. One cannot help loving the women in Matturro’s new trilogy; they are so alive with their flaws and quirks, in spite of–or perhaps, because of–their mythical essence.
I can appreciate an author who doesn’t fall into the trap of many writers who box women (or other characters either, for that matter) into particular categories from which they find it difficult, if not impossible, to escape. I have read several of Matturro’s titles, and find them not only literate but lyrical. If you find reading myth and legend (both ancient and contemporary) somewhat like Sisyphus rolling the boulder uphill, you’ll find these titles a refreshing change.
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