Cover image for Iris
Marsh, Jean.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Physical Description:
344 pages; 22 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Iris isn't quite a call girl...but she doesn't mind accepting cab fare back to the dismal family flat, or little gifts, or champagne in heady and glamorous restaurants. She lives dangerously and soon she finds herself plunged into a time when innocence is lost, and ignorance is no defense.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Iris is a 17-year-old Audrey Hepburn look-alike who has attached herself to the seedy elite of postwar London. Although she eagerly takes money for escorting gentlemen to lavish parties, she doesn't fully grasp her demeaned position. She relishes the wealthy surroundings and badgers her new "friends" to take her to expensive restaurants. A poor girl from the slums, she manages to almost fit in among the snobs and dandies, occasionally earning their respect and admiration with her gumption and youthful exuberance. A likable and complex heroine, Iris is charming, strong, and witty but also frustratingly naive. As she innocently dismisses every crude comment or sneer that is directed her way, the sense of impending disaster increases. Marsh stays a half-step ahead of the reader so that one is pretty sure of what's in the offing but not positive. This is a wonderful device that allows Marsh's audience to experience Iris' excitement even when that thrill clouds an instinct for danger. --Kristin Kloberdanz

Publisher's Weekly Review

Upstairs, Downstairs creator Marsh compassionately depicts a stark postwar London through the eyes of 17-year-old "tart" Iris Winston, who shares with her pre-Beatles motherland a dangerous blend of innocence, na‹vet‚ and a kind of willful refusal to see things for what they are. Iris convinces herself she isn't really a prostitute, though she regularly accepts cab fare, dinner and small gifts in exchange for providing predatory men with sexual favors, as when she talks dirty to an MP over lunch. Her lifestyle, insouciant but rife with danger and humiliations, centers on hip clubs and expensive restaurants, in stark contrast to the gloomy family flat she returns to every night. The virginal, childlike Iris seems oblivious to what others think of her, but in one afternoon, everything changes. Five upper-class men with whom she had been sharing a midday drink take her to an apartment and gang-rape her. Iris keeps this brutal awakening secret as she continues to live party to party and pound to pound, wary of the city's underworld but finding a dubious security among gay friends and Mafia families. Marsh's measured plot takes a sharp turn when Iris becomes a stand-in for a famous actress and marries Peter, a sympathetic restaurateur. Thirteen years later, in 1965, their marriage is on the rocks. Peter leaves for New York while Iris runs their restaurant/club, where she encounters Michael, the brother of one of her rapists. Though Iris can trust Michael, the secret surfaces and she uses her organized crime connections to protect her reputation. The two disparate parts of Marsh's story are held together only tenuously, however, and elements meant to link the two, such as the London-New York mob subplots, seem contrived. Actress and novelist Marsh does, however, paint an affecting portrait of Iris's loss of innocence, backgrounded by sharp and vivid societal detail. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved