THREE WOMEN by Marie Hanson (Canterbury: $7.95, paperback). There is a haunting quality to Marie Hanson's "Three Women" that is reminiscent of the novels of Jean Rhys. The similarity lies in the extraordinarily truthful tone, the fact that they both have written about women with desperate, marginal lives, and the lack of sentimentality with which they approach the subject. Hanson's novel is divided into three sections, each of which takes a character's name and tells her story. There is Sarah, her daughter, Miranda, and Miranda's daughter, Nicola, who has been given up for adoption at birth and who later seeks out her mother. The stories overlap, offering different perspectives on the same events. More than anything, this novel is about the depressing plight of working-class women who become taciturn, numbed by struggle and drudgery. Mothers and daughters are disinclined to talk to each other. The brutality of menial work, unwanted pregnancies, abandonment by men and other forms of emotional scarring have left them incapable of trust or affection. In the end, only Nicola, who has been reared by a doctor and his wife, shows any hope of having a more cheerful and promising life. The characters are strong and their stories make compelling reading, but the book is so full of errors that it's annoying. Stone figures are "gargoils," people are "quilty" when surely they are really guilty, there are "preverbial" minutes to oneself, a "hotest" summer, persons who "lent" back in chairs, and whole sentences that can't possibly mean what they say, such as, "His rooms were small and painted white at the top of lots of twisting stairs." (What color were they painted at the bottom of the twisting stairs? one wonders.) The tragedy is that Marie Hanson, who died last January at the age of 36, has written bravely of a world she obviously knew well, indicating a talent which, had she lived, might have produced greater works. Canterbury Press, a small publisher in Berkeley, has not done Hanson proper credit by allowing her work to appear in such a carelessly edited form.

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