Friday, November 30, 2007

Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman

I picked up Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, by Elizabeth Buchan, in a thrift store, because at $2, if it isn't any good, I don't mind getting rid of it. But I enjoyed it thoroughly, and it has a permanent place in my library now. It is well written, with solid characters and a calm voice throughout the emotional turmoil endured by the middle-aged woman, Rose.

Although the book is about the end of a marriage, it is in large measure a paean to the steady pleasures of married life, in contrast to the stimulation of change and variety. The revenge of the title comes from the idea that living well is the best revenge; Rose is a surprisingly unvengeful person who is simply trying to do her best to get through a difficult patch. Even though her life is thrown into disarray when her middle-aged husband leaves her for a younger woman, she firmly belives in marriage and the value of the effort to keep one intact. She loved the consistency, reliability, and habit of a long marriage, the knowledge of the other person that comes with decades of co-existence. Towards the end of the book, when she has found stability as a newly-single woman, Rose tells her daughter, newly-married to a man who turns out to be far different than she thought, that she needs to make the marriage work instead of giving up and running home. And Rose tells the young woman who replaced her (in both marriage and work), "You set this up, now you make it work." Her marriage may not have worked, but marriage in general is worth working at.

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