Life & Culture

Ms. Demeanor review: It’s not all fluff in this arresting tale of neighbours

Elinor Lipman’s latest novel is an entertaining caper with some serious points on misogyny, loneliness and issues facing single women


Ms. Demeanor
By Elinor Lipman
Lightning Books, £9.99

Who would have believed that house arrest could be so entertaining? Or lead to social media stardom and romance with a fellow felon?

Elinor Lipman’s latest novel has its heroine, Jane Morgan, confined to her Manhattan apartment building after she is observed having sex on the building’s rooftop with a work colleague.

A prudish neighbour reports the al fresco activities and poor Jane not only loses her job but gains a criminal conviction for indecent exposure, along with a very inconvenient ankle monitor.

Her twin sister Jackleen — going through her own romantic troubles — provides financial and moral support for the entrapped Jane, encouraging her to make an online cooking series for TikTok as something to fill the time.

Life takes a more interesting turn when Jane discovers Perry, another resident in the same building with similar restrictions on his movements, imposed for an entirely different crime.

It is not long before Jane, at Perry’s suggestion, is providing him with meals several times a week to relieve the tedium of ordering takeaways (visits to restaurants being forbidden).

The two soon enter into a “friends with benefits” arrangement —not the first time Lipman has had the heroine of one of her books indulge in guilt-free, no-strings sex, which leads on to further complications.

Factor in a couple of Polish immigrants who have outstayed their welcome in the US, a possible murder, plus a Jewish dentist with a marriage fixation and you have the perfect recipe for a highly amusing read.

Lipman has an acute ear for conversation and provides the reader with plenty of laugh out loud moments. It is easy to dismiss Lipman’s books as lightweight and fluffy. Light they may be, but she is such a wonderfully witty writer that you can forgive the sometimes improbable plot turns.

There are also some serious points she makes along the way, tackling misogyny, loneliness and the issues single women over 35 have to deal with when their biological clock is ticking away. A sparklingly entertaining caper.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive