I have been an admirer of the writing of Paul Bowles for some time and have been aware that his wife, Jane Bowles has also done some writing, but did not get around to reading any of her work until I was inspired to read her novel, Two Serious Ladies (1943) after reading Negar Azimi's excellent New Yorker blog post, "The Madness of Queen Jane." It is a curious novel about misfits and and sesnitve people who do not get own with the average people of their day and struggle with inner demons. Azimi's openign sold me on the novel:
The Hotel de las Palmas, in Jane Bowles’s conspicuously strange novel “Two Serious Ladies,” is a gnatty pension where pimps and winos lie about. It is here, in a rundown Panamanian port town called Colon, a place “full of nothing but half breeds and monkeys,” that Frieda Copperfield, a fine lady of early middle age and of respectable provenance, decides to jettison her handsome but square husband to find warmth and gin-soaked comfort in the arms of a teen-age prostitute named Pacifica. Lying in leonine Pacifica’s tiny bed, her cheek resting on the girl’s breast, Mrs. Copperfield feels that she has finally found the sort of love that she has always looked for. “I wouldn’t live anywhere else for the world,” she says, a little later, about the inn that will soon become her adopted home.
The other "serious lady" aside form Mrs. Copperfield is Cristina Goering. Again Azimi states it succinctly:
As “Two Serious Ladies” opens, we meet Cristina Goering, an acquaintance of Frieda Copperfield’s, whom we are told is the daughter of a powerful American industrialist. From here, Bowles relates each woman’s separate story, until the two, who are friendly but not intimate, cross paths at the book’s unforgettable end. Both women—they are referred to as Miss and Mrs., like the good librarian types they appear to be—are of bourgeois bearing. Both, too, astonish, perplex, and offend just about everyone they meet, willfully straying from the straight path set before them and descending into debaucherous excess. Dipsomaniacal uptown girls—one is never far from a drink in this tale—these serious ladies find pleasure downtown, in the company of lunatics, clowns, and misfits.
This edition also has an informative introduction by Lorna Sage and memoir by Truman Capote that was written as an introduction to her Collected Works (1966). It was an unusual novel about those who didn't fit into "proper" society, much like Jane and her acclaimed husband I would suspect.