Skip Navigation

Submitted Literature

The Temptress Ariel

By Greg Bauder

Review

The Temptress Ariel by Greg Bauder is a love story set in a psychiatric boarding house in Vancouver. The story is brief, but allows Bauder sufficient scope to build a credible narrative and to reveal a side of life that is hidden from many people. Don is a 34 year old, diagnosed with schizophrenia, who falls for 30 year old Ariel the moment she walks into the house. Ariel is attractive, seductive and needy. A relationship blossoms under the anxious vigilance of the boarding house staff. The course of love never runs smooth, and in this case has to survive jealousy, psychosis, alcohol, and Ariel’s disapproving grandmother. The story has its climax as Don and Ariel are admitted to an inpatient facility, where Ariel’s lingering love for Stan, a sinister previous boyfriend, is rekindled. In a ménage a trois someone has to lose and herein lies the dramatic apogee of the story.

The strength of this story is in the insider’s view it provides into the insular world of boarding house life, ruled as it is by Ativan, Haldol, and nurses ready to offer their wisdom on how people with mental illness are different to others. If this is community care you would probably wonder how much has been gained by deinstitutionalisation. Both Don’s and Ariel’s lives are circumscribed by rules, medication and routines, so that their relationship offers, if not love, at least the promise of escape. One of the more powerful images of the story is Bauder’s use of Don’s feeling of being ‘light’ or ‘heavy’, depending on his emotional state. In these passages Don’s internal world is suggested rather than overtly described, and is the more vivid because the reader is forced to imagine Don’s experience. Bauder’s writing is straightforward, although at times a little over descriptive, but at least there are no ambitious literary devices to detract from the narrative.

The Temptress Ariel is a tightly focused story that sticks close to its main driving force, the relationship between Don and Ariel. The boarding house and hospital settings allow Bauder to introduce a range of minor characters, and to portray various aspects of the day to day life of people using mental health services. Perhaps in the end the story leans a little too far towards being a study of psychiatric treatment at the expense of the wider life of Don and Ariel. Or it may be that Bauder’s intention is to show how people with mental illness can be reduced to their illness identity, even as they struggle to build an ordinary life. Readers will find the insights into psychiatric treatment interesting; perhaps enough to follow any future novel for the development of Bauder’s themes.

Key Themes:

  • Psychosis

Significant Quotes / Pages

(unpaged)

I stumbled into love with the new woman, Ariel, who moved into the Psychiatric Boarding Home

The staff always watch like eagles ready to lift you away to hospital if feel too light.

We reached the boarding home without holding hands so that the nurses wouldn’t watch our every move. We told the staff that we had two drinks each. The evening nurse reminded us that alcohol and our medications do not mix well. She reminded us to stay away from the pubs

The next thing I knew it was morning, and I was observing four golden spaceships hovering above the North Shore mountains. I began to call out for someone to see them….

Reference: Greg, Bauder. 2004. The Temptress Ariel. PublishAmerica, 2004

Reviewer

Anthony O'Brien
Date Review Submitted: Thursday 30th June 2011