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Desert of the Heart by Jane Rule
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Desert of the Heart (1964)

by Jane Rule

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I had read this book years and years ago, and quite liked it then. I was rather afraid to re-read, because often lesbian fiction that I liked in the old days doesn't hold up. I think that back then I was just excited to read books that reflected my life, so I wasn't super critical. The other thing is its just hard to remember, in 2016, how much things have changed, and how hard it was to be a lesbian just a generation ago. I was talking just the other night with a friend about the movie Carol. She was kind of complaining that the movie left her feeling so sad. I had to remind her that for that time, that was a happy ending.

In [Desert of the Heart], there were times when I felt that the characters were way to serious and melodramatic for the situation. I had to remind myself that, for the error, the drama made sense. There was very little room, and that time, for an independent woman, and absolutely no room for an out lesbian to live safely. That said, I do think that at times Rule is just to serious and philosophical. But she is a good writer, I think, and the story is interesting. Evelyn Hall comes to Reno to get a quicky divorce. This is back when divorces were harder to get, and so it meant staying in Reno for 6 weeks and pretending that she was establishing residence there. She meets a quirky younger woman, Ann Childs, who works in a casino, and has her own struggles with intimacy. The book is interesting also for it's descriptions of Nevada, the casinos, and that whole world.

So the book has a happy ending--hooray! I thought it was worth my reading time... probably 3 1/2 stars, maybe 4? ( )
  banjo123 | Feb 27, 2016 |
i wanted to like this, but it's a mess. it tries to be way too many things and ends up being a jumble that often doesn't quite make sense, with these spots of clarity (and lovely literary references) that could have been so much more. i found this annoying more than anything else, while reading. the characters and their interactions aren't even a little believable, and the main relationship even less so, even before you get to the ending. a book about ann and silver, that i might have liked.

"You had to love the whole damed world to love anyone at all." ( )
  elisa.saphier | Feb 23, 2016 |
Definitely a better-than-average specimen of the "LGBT classic" - a thoughtful, well-written and not too predictable lesbian romance with lots of interesting period detail about the Nevada gambling industry. As a few others have mentioned, there's also plenty of entertainment value in trying to spot places where the 1985 film actually used part of the book. (Apart from the setting in Reno and the occupations of the two main characters, there isn't much overlap between the two.) ( )
  thorold | Dec 8, 2014 |
In some ways I'm sorta sad that I saw the movie before I read this book. I wonder if I would have appreciated the book even more if I wasn't constantly comparing the book to the movie. They are quite similar in theme and in some scenes and such, but, there are also big differences too (because of the difference in what media it's being presented in (although, I don't quite understand the change in a ton of the names between the book and the movie).

It's about Evelyn. An older woman, a Professor with a PhD who has come to Reno to get a no contested sort of divorce. Live in Reno for six weeks, go to court, voila divorce. She stays at a sort of Inn/Bed and Breakfast place. Frances owns/runs the place with her son Walter. And then there's Ann who lives there as well. Ann is a cartoonist (satire and political I think, not so much the funny papers). But, she also works at a Slot Parlor. In the book the two women Ann and Evelyn look very much alike, which is one of the reasons they begin interacting in the first place. That was one of the few things in the book that really threw me off since in the movie they most definitely don't look alike.

It's a typical lesbian romance fiction in that the back and forths the twists and turns weren't too different from the norm, but, other than that it wasn't typical at all. The descriptions especially were amazing. I could see everything so clearly. And the dialogue, though a teensy bit dated was awesome too. Crisp and it flowed perfectly. The characters were all really unique. (Especially Silver and her guy Joe) and they all played roles in a really tightly written plot.

So, while on the one hand it's a classic piece of lesbian fiction romance, it's also a beautiful piece of literature (in the best sense of the word) about Identity and marriage and love and it even has some heady things to expound on about gambling. An amazing novel and very truly a classic in both genre and in general.

I do have to add that I was a little depressed how the Reno Library was portrayed (although, who knows, maybe it did suck back then). And as a total aside having nothing to do with the novel, the ePub was a wicked well made/formatted one (or perhaps I've just read too many crappily made ePubs, who knows), but, I really appreciated it being a readable ePub.

ARC via Netgalley and Open Road Integrated Media ( )
1 vote DanieXJ | Aug 26, 2013 |
It’s easy to forget when you’re reading Desert of the Heart, by American-turned Canadian author Jane Rule, that is was actually published in 1964. But it is essential to remember, because it’s astonishing, really, that this kind of lesbian novel was even published (in hardcover no less) at a time when cheap paperback lesbian pulp novels—with appropriately depressing endings—were the only kind of contemporary books available with queer women’s content. It’s not only that the novel doesn’t condemn either of the women for their desire, although that is significant; it’s that Desert of the Heart presents a startlingly psychologically complex reading of a lesbian relationship. Rule, who passed away in 2007, should really be heralded as one of the key lesbian writers who paved the way for and began what we currently call queer women’s literature.

Evelyn and Ann are the two lovers at the centre of the story, but that is much too simple a description of their relationship...

See the rest of my review at my website: http://caseythecanadianlesbrarian.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/the-beginning-of-cont... ( )
  CaseyStepaniuk | Sep 20, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jane Ruleprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kay, JackieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Conventies hebben, evenals clichés, nogal eens de neiging zichzelf te overleven.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Set in the late 1950s, this is the story of Evelyn Hall, an English Professor, who goes to Reno to obtain a divorce and put an end to her disastrous 16-year marriage. While staying at a boarding house to establish her six-week residency requirement she meets Ann Childs, a casino worker and fifteen years her junior. Physically, they are remarkably alike and eventually have an affair and begin the struggle to figure out just how a relationship between two women can last. Desert of the Heart examines the conflict between convention and freedom and the ways in which the characters try to resolve the conflict.

VIRAGO EDITION:

Evelyn Hall, an English professor, is in Reno to obtain a divorce and put an end to her sixteen-year-old marriage.
During her six weeks' stay at a boarding house, she meets Ann Childs, a free-spirited casino worker and fifteen years her junior. Evelyn is about to be overwhelmed by more than just the staggering spare beauty of the Nevada desert...
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 159493035X, Paperback)

The book that launched the ground-breaking and single most popular lesbian movie of all time is back.

In this romantic classic by Jane Rule, readers can discover how Ann and Evelyn’s relationship originally came to pass.

DESERT OF THE HEART is THE definitive lesbian classic.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:18 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Evelyn Hall arrives in Reno wanting only to be left alone while she waits six weeks for a painful divorce from her husband. Once there she meets Ann Child, 15 years her junior, who is both a free spirit and a lesbian.

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