The novel Clown Girl by Monica Drake caught my eye, with its rubber chicken cover and promises of dark comedy. The story itself is about a young woman in Baloneytown who is attempting to make a living as a clown, a true artist, with silent mime-ish interpretations of Kafka while struggling not to give in to the easy corporate-clown money.
On the surface, it seems fairly straight forward, and–as expected in a novel about clowns–at times absolutely hilarious. But it is so much more than a novel about a clown named Sniffles. It’s a story about a woman named Nita dealing with a miscarriage, the absent elitist clown boyfriend, horrific housemates, missing dogs and chickens, and forbidden feelings. Every time Drake allowed you the release of laughter, two lines later you felt like crying. It was an incredible, beautiful, roller coaster of a novel, from start to finish.
The writing itself is simply pristine. It has been a long time since I have read prose that was as refined and purposeful while evoking a dark hilarity in simple turns of phrases. Drake has a true talent for understatement, which is necessary in a novel with such absurd extremes. It facilitates and eases the reader through each low and high spot, leaving them feeling satiated and content by the end.
Suffice it to say, I recommend Clown Girl for anyone who enjoys a dark literary comedy, or even those who don’t, as you will fall in love with Sniffles as you root for her through street fairs, police stations, and corporate parties.