Summer Fling, by Jean Copeland
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
There is a scene in Failure To Launch where the male lead finds himself attacked by an herbivorous lizard and his friends reply that he must be living contrary to nature. This book reminded me that even in a novel with a group of middle-aged lesbians at its core, a book that has very few men in it at all, there will be a strong Nathanish feel to the proceedings, and when no literary fiction is free from being like me, it is probably a sign that one is living contrary to nature. If this novel, some 220 pages in its e-book form, probably close to twice that if read on paper and ink, is any indication, contemporary literary fiction likes relationship drama and exploring people with a high degree of neuroses and insecurities and anxieties who tend to sabotage their own happiness, and in that mix of bad experiences and a combustible mix of fear and longing about intimacy one is going to find characters who are much like me as a person, regardless of the contexts of their lives . Whether this tendency to celebrate the anxious and timid is because such people often become writers or because they are writing for an audience of people like them or both is beyond my own knowledge and expertise.
This novel is an example of literary fiction that deals with the love lives of a group of four lesbians. Through their struggles and difficulties the reader is supposed to have some idea of what is considered to be ideal or problematic within their scene. The protagonist is Kate, an idealistic but deeply cynical lawyer who spends her whole life, it seems, either drinking with her girlfriends or involved in some sort of service on behalf of her community. This includes serving as defense counsel for one of her friends, Viv, who is obsessive about her ex-gf Maia, who broke up because she wanted to settle down and have children. Kate has been single for four years after the breakup of a previous relationship that had lasted a long time and falls for the attractive and much younger Jordan Squire. Meanwhile, her personal assistant/friend is involved in an ambivalent relationship with a married bisexual woman, and complications and drama and lots of drinking inevitably ensue. Will Jordan get her major label recording contract and go to Los Angeles? Will Kate’s insecurities sabotage her relationship? This is a novel with a strong romantic edge, and a celebration of love, but it is also an example of conventions within literary fiction that make their own characters and their neuroses the most serious obstacles to their own happiness. The characters of this novel serve as both protagonists and villains, a complicated task.
There are at least a few lessons this novel can teach its reader. Not everyone will identify with this novel and its near total absence of men, but a certain segment of readers will. Even within this world, though, there is a great deal of drama, some of it at least ostensibly hormonal in nature. These characters are flawed and it is instructive that within the narrow and claustrophobic sapphic community of the novel that there are a few tendencies that are still considered to be daring or outre, namely being interested in people across a wide age gap as well as being interested in both sexes. This novel is an interesting case of the bisexual erasure that occurs within a great deal of queer literature, and a way that even among those who pride themselves on being unconventional there is still conventionality and still ways that people look down on others just as they hate being looked down upon by others. No community or person is immune from being hypocrites, and although there are a great many people who will likely have no interest in the world of this novel or the subculture it represents, there are still powerful moral lessons to be found in the way that love leads people out of their comfort zones and that there are always going to be longings that are considered beyond the pale of acceptability no matter in which communities one finds oneself. It seems such a melancholy lesson for a book that tries so hard to be optimistic about the opportunity for love.
 See, for example: