- Book: Who is Maud Dixon?
- Location: Morocco, New York City (NYC)
- Author: Alexandra Andrews
“Everyone in Marrakesh is pretending to be someone they’re not…” and with this simple sentence, the reader knows that they are entering the realms of storytelling inspired by Patricia Highsmith (oh, and throw in a bit of Elena Ferrante, given one of the main characters in the novel hides behind a pseudonym and no-one knows who she really is).
Who is Maud Dixon? has popped up a lot on my timeline recently (clearly the algorithms have me down as someone who likes a strong sense of place!). Time to dive in!
The novel opens with Florence Darrow, a young woman who is working in a lowly position in a publishing house in New York. She has dreams of becoming a novelist and it turns out she has quite some grit and determination. She has a couple of sexual encounters with her boss, knowing full well he is committed to his wife. Somehow she is sufficiently intrigued by his wife that she seeks her out and develops a bit of an obsession. She of course gets fired and there is no bemoaning her lot – instead she is fired up to find an inner energy that will transport her to new frontiers; shortly thereafter, she is taken on as an assistant by Helen Wilcox, who actually is the incognito eponymous author of the title. Only Helen’s agent and Florence know her true identity. She is currently writing her second novel after having had a phenomenal success with her first.
A research trip to Morocco is planned at short notice and both author and assistant head off, first to Marrakech and then fictional Semat, a small town on the coast. Helen insists they get a hire car and soon they are finding their feet on the treacherous road. One seminal incident and then the whole narrative changes direction.
I found this novel extremely readable and it bowls along at a good pace. I feel there were some devices planted into the storyline, scene setters as it were, that were quite obvious ways to push things forward, and perhaps more subtlety might have added tension and cohesion. As for the towel rail, unscrewed from the wall, that saves Florence’s life….!! (I always carry a screwdriver around just in case, don’t you?).
Loving the cover, very enigmatic and the colours herald the main setting. Morocco is very well drawn and observed and the book will transport you immediately to the souks and alleyways, whilst tickling all the senses. She also has her characters read Paul Bowles who of course is a classic resource for any trip to this part of the world.