[See pt. 1 for my thoughts on Of Human Bondage.]
Liza of Lambeth
This one is rather short, at least in comparison to Of Human Bondage. It tells of Liza, a slum girl who falls in love with Jim, a married, over-forty man with several kids who just moved into the neighborhood. Liza and Jim’s relationship becomes more and more apparent to the neighborhood, who shun Liza. Jim’s wife becomes particularly pissed (and with good reason!), and vows to get Liza back.
Liza’s friend Sally gets married to Harry, who seems sweet at first. Soon, however, he comes home drunk and beats Sally and her mother. Liza returns home from Sally’s to find Jim waiting for her. He is drunk and annoyed that she kept him waiting. He gives her a black eye.
Later, Jim’s wife confronts Liza on the street and a fight commences. Both are hurt, though Liza is clearly worse off. The fight breaks up as Jim and Tom, a man who has loved Liza for a long time, both show up. Tom takes Liza home, and repeats his offer to have her in marriage. She reveals that she is preggers with Jim’s baby and then collapses into bed after drinking with her mother some.
Jim tries to choke his wife for what she did to Liza, but he is stopped by a woman who rushes to his wife’s aid, after his daughter panics and runs for help.
It eventually becomes apparent that Liza has had a miscarriage and will not survive. Jim comes by and pays his last respects. As Liza is unconscious, dying, but clearly not dead, her mother and a neighbor have already begun discussing her funeral and life insurance policy. There was definitely irony in that bit; indeed, throughout the piece. Anyway, Liza dies.
I can say that I enjoyed Of Human Bondage better, but Liza certainly was not bad. It was a bit tiresome and perhaps hard to relate to. As I said before, this work was chock-full of irony. The only good man in the entire story was Tom; every other man described or mentioned was an abuser and insensitive. Tom even offered to marry Liza despite her preggers-ness. He clearly loved her.
I suppose a theme for this book could be “love doesn’t last”. Every romance in the story petered out relatively quickly. Tom’s unrequited love for Liza was probably the longest-lasting. Liza and Jim, Sally and Harry, Liza’s parents, Liza’s neighbors, Sally’s neighbors; they all experienced domestic abuse and even outright murder attempts, in some cases. The honeymoon stage ends, the story seemed to say, and then you discover the true meaning of marriage.
Oh, that sounds so grim. Fear not, for while my words are unhappy, I am not! :)