Saturday, April 16, 2011
Baby Godiva was found in manuscript form by relatives following Holland's death from cancer in 1971. Here the femme fatale, if one can call her that, is Godie a sexually mature but emotionally-challenged fourteen year old, the daughter of an encrazed and abusive preacher. In this claustrophobic, 1950s southern town, Godie befriends Carly, an uneducated eighteen year old farm worker who works unceasingly for his drunken step-father. Accused of assaulting and raping Godiva, Carly is arrested. The extenuating circumstances soon become clear as the novel moves from the young couple's strange friendship to the courtroom and beyond, focusing not only on Godie and Carly, but those connected to the crime. Holland's novel- "Kill a Mockingbird meets Lolita"- is about race and class as it manifests itself through the legal system, prison and capital punishment, and the prevailing attitudes of the era. Delving into the lives of not only Godie but the wife and mistress of the judge trying the case, it's also about the sexual politics of the time, the curse of beauty and how society can so easily manipulate the emotionally immature and uneducated. Though Baby Godiva might not be as tightly constructed as Fallen Angel and Glass Heart, it's a more ambitious effort. This is a novel not only for those interested in forgotten Hollywood writers, but for those who like fiction from an era when noir was for real. Reading Baby Godiva I couldn't help but wonder what Mary Holland might have gone on to write had she lived through the next wave of feminism that would arrive in the years following her death.