In the center of the novel there is the lesbian love between Evelyn and Ann, not very much depicted, as the novel was published in 1964, unsure at first and ongoing, but in the end the real true thing and makes it a classic significant novel of the genre.
It is also a political novel, as it speaks of the spreading of Casino’s throughout Nevada and America, the gambling interests involve politicians, the Mafia and somehow take control of some states, putting inhabitants in danger, victims of their own flaws : gambling.
Jane Rule was a pioneer in having the power to write such a novel back then, she was a road opener and a beliver in change and love between women.
The „Desert of the Heart” is the story of Evelyn Hall, an English university professor from California, who came to Reno, Nevada for a quick divorce, yet she finds so much more.
It’s the story of all the women back in the 1930’s-1960’s that wanted a quick divorce went to Reno, some were strong like Evelyn and really wanted a quick divorce without children involved, but some were like Virginia, living in the same boarding house (divorce ranch) with Evelyn and Ann with Frances, Ann’s stepmother, Virginia missed her son, David, and her husband, she actually wanted her family back and to get her husband’s attention committed suicide attempt.
Ann Childs is a „change girl” at the Casino, she’s a wild spirit and a free woman, that likes to play with fire, she doesn’t need to work at the Casino for the money, but she likes the idea of it, on how easy people lose their money. She loves the whole damned world like she says, she doesn’t know what she wants and needs…until Evelyn, the mother figure, whom with much care, loving, intelligence and tenderness had conquered Ann’s spirit and heart, as Ann is 15 years younger (her name Childs).
Before, Ann had an affair with Bill, Anne’s superior at the Casino, who didn’t take the denial easy, got together with another woman and hated Ann for her lesbian relationship, eventually firing her from the Casino, doing the greater good he could have done for her.
And Silver. Ann had an affair with her, too until she realizes Silver wanted to marry her boyfriend and have children, yet wanted her affair with Ann to continue.
„Why aren’t you seeing Bill?
Because I am free. And I want to stay free.
Because you don’t want to let another man have the right to your life that your father had.”
Ann had such mixed feelings, she actually didn’t love anyone, but wanted love and care and affection, but from the wrong people, she needed a woman that can take care of her heart, to be hers alone and to live happily ever after.
Ann has a talent in drawing cartoons, she is publishing them in a local magazine, but they’re mokery, there’s one project call „Eve’s Apple” that she never showed to anyone, but Evelyn.
„Her mirrored insights, Ann was not sure whether they were reflections of reality or vanity.”
Ann falls for Evelyn without knowing.
And Evelyn, oh Evelyn, she had a bad marriage with a man she didn’t love, but had to support, he hated her for her successes and his failures, they didnt’s share same values, yet she was a scholar, a very intelligent woman, who knew from the very first moment she saw Ann what had happened. Yet, she didn’t know how to behave upon the feelings that flooded her heart and her mind, she was in love with Ann, a child, a beautiful woman she admired and adored, she found love for the very first time and she wasn’t about to lose it.
„The desert seems to me the simple truth about the world. The earth’s given out. Man can’t make a living from it. They have to get it from each other.”
They went to the lake together and had a swim, but men in helicopters saw them and that could be an issue in Evelyn’s divorce, if they were recognized.
„I live in the desert of tje heart, Evelyn said quietly. I can’t love the whole dammned world.
Love me, Evelyn.
Of course she wanted Ann. Pride, morality and inexperience had kept her from addmitting it frankly to herself from the first moment she had seen Ann..”
One night when a colleague’s child from the casino dies, Ann was really affected and got drunk and invited Evelyn to Pyramid Lake, yet Evelyn asked to speak about it tomorrow.
„My tragedy is comedy. I am in love with the whole damned world. The only problem is maintaining aesthetic distance. You’re elegant at it.
Ann made was making a melodrama of a death that didn’t belong to her. She was right to make fun of herself. But, there was passion in this sparring, grieving, comic that had to find an acceptable disguise between sentimentality and brutality so that the world could decorously and sympathetically respond.”
At one turning point, Evelyn had a change of heart, after a kiss, a passionate night with Ann, didn’t wanted to ruin Ann’s life, youth and everything life had in hold for her. It’s fascinating, how Ann is fired from the Casino, testifies for Evelyn in her divorce trial, and finally knows she loves Evelyn, believes in love with her freedom untouched, yet full of fidelity and devotion.
„I sometimes think I can forecast the weather in your eyes, Evelyn said.
What’s your prediction?
Hot and clear.
I want you, Ann said.
I want you.
And, if you can’t have what you need, you take what you want. Accept damnation. It has it’s power and it’s charm. You love the whole damn world in the alien, not quite accurate image of yourself.
Take off your clothes.
Turn out the light.”
Their love is unconsumed.
„Do you want a drink?
Come to bed then.
Do you want me.
Very much. Now.
There was no urgency in Ann’s own body at first, only the desire to know Evelyn, to discover her desire, to serve it. In a physical simplicity she had never known before, could not have believed in, Ann joined Evelyn to the very images of her blood, speaking it’s wild, natural, insistent poetry until the silence they lay in was sleep. ”
„Evelyn dreamed lines of poetry, images, woked afraid and dreamed again”
They live happily ever after.
„Because I couldn’t help loving you, Evelyn said, feeling the tight control leaving her voice. Because I can’t help loving you, your wild, inaccurate emotions, your bizzare innocence, your angry sense of responsability, your wrongheaded wit, your cowboy boots, your absolutely magnificent body, your incredible eyes. I can’t help it. I don’t know how anyone could.”
Watch the movie “Desert hearts” with Helen Shaver & Patricia Charbonneau :