Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Women's Room (Virago Modern Classics) Paperback – May 1, 1997 by Marilyn French (Virago Press Ltd)

This is one of those books that I read every year. I find something I missed the year before. Marilyn French's prose is exquisite and highly readable. The novel centers around Mira, an attractive and very intelligent woman born in the late 20's to very rigid and 'repectable' parents. Despite her convential upbringing, Mira reads voraciously and forms opinions different from those of her parents. She briefly attends college and meets Norm at a neighborhood party. She marries him (this is the 1950's) and they have two boys in quick succession--Normie and Clark. Norm is a medical student and Mira stays home and takes care of the kids and house.After Norm graduates, they move to a suburb and she begins to make friends with the other women in the neighborhood, who are basically like her, but some have 'secret' lives that French explores in depth. By this time, (the late 50's and early '60's) Mira begins to realize how stifling her life is and she and Norm grow further apart. He asks for a divorce (he's been having an affair with a younger woman---surprise!) Mira puts the boys in a private school and moves to Cambridge (she's accepted at Harvard); the year is 1968 and she's a fish out of water until she meets other graduate students and an attractive man named Ben. Of course, Ben is the hero of the novel because he, unlike Norm, is a wonderful lover and Mira experiences her first orgasm. The women she befriends in Cambridge are altogether different from the ones she knew in suburbia, particularly Valerie and her teenager daughter, Chris. I think Ms. French tends to lionize Valerie; I don't like the character because she's obnoxious and profane and thinks 'all men are rapists'; get a grip! Mira receives her Ph.d in English and develops a deeper relationship with her sons. She and Ben break up when Ben wants to marry her and have a baby. 

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