The List of Soiled Doves is the latest offering by Redding Walters. In her previous novels, Redding has taken us to the contemporary Pacific Northwest and to the court of King Charles I of England, crafting entertaining tales wrapped with humor, history, romance, and lots of flavor of the area, the times, and the people.
This novella is no different, I am pleased to say. Walters takes us to Vancouver in the period 1895-1905. You can smell the sea and the coal smoke, hear the raucous roughness of the town as it tries to gain that genteel veneer of a maturing gold rush city. She takes as her inspiration small slips of paper she found stuffed in the back of a court clerks book of verdicts and penalties, “bordello raid sheets” where the “soiled doves” were listed with the fines they paid when the police swept through the town’s red light district.
Walters takes these lists of names and numbers and tells the story of the women, through the eyes of one particularly literate “dove”. You feel their desperation, their humor, their humanity. Walters has captured the vernacular and the lives – the what, why, how – as well as the who, of these women and contrasts them, again through our narrator’s eye, to the men, and the women who, but for a twist of fate, live on the “better” side of town.
The story is fascinating, fast-moving, well-researched, funny, and poignant all at once. Highly recommended!
Me as a critic (be careful! the harshness will be well concealed!)