This is a book which works effectively and simultaneously on more than one level. Written in the late 50's it was aimed at (largely) closeted lesbians. So, why does it strike such a chord in a straight middle-aged man? That's me in case you were wondering.
For a start it's an interesting counterpoint to the tv series The L Word (of which, surprise surprise, I'm a big fan) in the sense that it's almost an historical document which reflects certain changes in Western society. It depicts a time of repression when gays of both sexes hid in the shadows whereas today,(ideally and at least in liberal circles) to admit to being a lesbian (or gay) has little more impact than stating that one is left-handed -yeah, so? And perhaps that might be a more idealistic statement than an accurate one. No matter, it is a fascinating, albeit depressing, portrayal of an earlier repressive period.
But what particularly spoke to me about it was to be able to interpret it as a metaphor for the Outsider figure. Now almost certainly this is not what Bannon was intending; she was writing (she hoped) to reach lesbians hidden in the shadows of 1950's American society. What it did was to remind of myself about the same age as Laura in the novel but over a decade later. Reading Colin Wilson's treatise 'The Outsider' in my late teens helped me understand alienation and realise why I didn't quite fit in (indeed only recently a friend called me 'the cat who walks by himself'). It was only discovering science fiction fandom at a convention in 1970 (long before Star Wars made SF reasonably hip) when I felt like I'd come home, meeting people who shared similar idiosyncratic attitudes to myself. Reading this novel reminded me of those days.
By the end of the novel, Laura hasn't quite reached that stage (of finding a subculture she can embrace) but she is getting there. What I feel is that Bannon has created an extended metaphor where people who, for whatever reasons, are alienated from conventional society (though I suspect this is less these days than when she was writing), can identify with. Whatever her intentions she reaches beyond her target audience to speak to anyone who ever felt themselves different from the norm and this is the mark of a powerful writer.