Quill and Quire


« Back to
Book Reviews

Choose Me

by Evelyn Lau

As with much of Evelyn Lau’s previous writing – fiction, memoir, and poetry – the six stories and one novella in this collection obsessively track ill-fated, sexualized relationships between young women and much older men. Here Lau’s female narrators inhabit an unhappy Freudian paradox. Consciously drawn to the paternal qualities of late-middle-aged men, Lau’s 20-ish women are not physically attracted to their lovers, yet long for the concentrated male attention that accompanies sexual desire.

The most sensitive depiction of this situation is in the opening story, “Family.” Zoe, a young poet, is tempted by a married book editor’s infatuation with her. As they move towards an adulterous encounter in his home, with his wife and children asleep upstairs, Zoe’s arousal drains away, to be replaced by the strange, complicated realization that she does not want to destroy this family, but to join it. She fantasizes about sharing the marriage bed, but in innocent sleep, between the couple, as their child. “Family” is discomfiting in its confusion of the sexual and familial, the story’s power lies not in its curdled sexuality, but in the frank expression of Zoe’s yearning.

Unfortunately, such vulnerability is all too rare in this chilly collection. While Zoe recognizes the problematic nature of her desires before getting too sexually enmeshed, the majority of the women in these stories are passively resentful in their relationships. They seethe with unspoken anger, misery, and physical disgust as older men seduce them, failing to intuit the real nature of their attractiveness as father figures. A few of the male characters are uncomplicated sex pigs, to be sure, but the author and her narrators seem to find little of interest in the occasional appearance of a kind, milder breed of man. Only the wealthy, distant, CEO-style daddies in Lau’s peculiar F. Scott Fitzgerald homages – “The Summer Place,” and “Blue Skies” – seem potentially worthy of the narrator’s youth and beauty. How narratively convenient, then, that they’re unattainable.

Despite Lau’s reputation as a chronicler of contemporary sex and power relationships, there is something distinctly retrograde about her callow, humourless young women here. Sexlessly, they carry themselves with the superior air of silent victimhood, and bear no sense of their own responsibility in sour relationships. As Lau depicts them, these women seem pitiful, but not pitiable.


Reviewer: Lisa Godfrey

Publisher: Doubleday Canada


Price: $29.95

Page Count: 256 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-385-25844-5

Released: Mar.

Issue Date: 1999-2

Categories: Fiction: Short