This, above all:

This, above all: To be God's best for The Coach and for Anna

Friday, May 19, 2006

From our shelf: Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman

I snatched Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman by Elizabeth Buchan from the Booksale bin (P70.00) because of its title—as did its one million other readers, I suspect. I settled comfortably on my side of the bed and waited until The Coach fell asleep; it didn’t seem like good manners to brandish such a title in his face as his last memory for the day.

About six hours later, half of me was cheering on Rose—the book’s middle-aged heroine who lost her husband, job, and home to her own young, beautiful assistant—and the other half was sheepish because I had just finished a truly wonderful book by Paula Fox, and I felt I betrayed Fox somewhat by taking pleasure in what had been made into a TV movie, starring Christine Lahti.

Revenge will never be considered highbrow lit, and a few of its de rigueur confrontations with the husband and the other woman made me squirm: oh please, please don’t go melodramatic, and they almost did, teetering dangerously, dangerously so.

But humor abounds, even in the way Rose committed to break down:

If I was going to suffer—that is, more than I was at the moment, and there was no doubt that I would—I might as well do it properly and give myself up to grand and august pain.

Buchan writes intelligently, and by that I mean her writing can be insightful and, while uncertain and a tad overdone in some portions, her language can be beautiful.

Because I am on my way to being middle-aged, I needed to see Rose through her bewilderment and bawling, and on to her choice to live. Rose, who considered herself “the grit in the oyster,” read in her body the life she led:

What did I expect to see? The gleaming bronze of a fountain nymph, whose lines flowed untouched and unmarked? My body had swelled in gestation. It had been stretched, ripped, sewn up. It had carried children, cradled them and, when the time had come, pushed them gently away. It had learned to be endlessly busy, to snatch at repose, to guard its silences in the hot, crowded demands of the family. How could all this activity not be written into the flesh?

Yup, none of that You complete me hoohah. Some of Revenge’s other lines I like…

Poetry hovered on the weightless and was decorated with wide white margins.
As an organizational principle, love has flaws.
Supposedly the past is a foreign country of which we should beware. That was not true: it was oneself that was the foreign country, the unexplored, possibly dangerous side.
Life, wrote Virginia Woolf, was a luminous halo, a semitransparent envelope. Oh no, it was not. Not for some. Some of us lived in a plain brown envelope.

…as well as an old Spanish proverb for a great epigraph: Living well is the best revenge.


Giselle said...

Moving forward in life and leaving the past behind is the best revenge as well.......... Hey Jan, I gotta tell you, you are such an excellent writer, I eat up your every word and laugh at your insighfulness and sense of humor. I'm a big fan. My step-daughter, Melissa is an avid reader and wants to be a writer, she's going this year to University of North Carolina to take creative writing, she's a voracious reader and loves books just like you. I had her read your Undercurrents on line and she loves it. I love it as well. I wish I'm as good as you, I would totally be writing book after book.

janet said...

Thank you, Giselle (and to Melissa, too)! You are wonderfully, wonderfully affirming.