on 12 July 2012
I give it 4* (5* kept for both exceptional writing and good editing; here the Kindle version contains many words hyphenated that shouldn't be (from print version layout?) - I find the carelessness of Kindle versions deeply strange).
I love books by Elizabeth Berg that I have read to date, and this is no exception. There is enough plot and context to hold the piece together, but otherwise it is an exploration of someone's mind through a medley of observations, recollections and imaginings.
This is the second of her books with the theme of a woman whose husband, in a very close marriage, has died unexpectedly a little while earlier (the first being `The Year of Pleasures'). That provides a rich context where we are able to watch as she unpicks, in a gentle and discursive manner, what she thought her marriage was, and who she is now.
There is never a sense of haste, and it is an almost meditative read. I like that the woman in question has some characteristics I find difficult in others (fussy, over-protective, indecisive), as I was able to see these from the inside.
I had just discarded a book (by a different author) that felt flat, forced and unidimensional; and here I found myself engrossed, and occasionally brought to laughter and tears on the same page. It felt simultaneously light and deeply satisfying.
on 9 September 2012
Hi there! I just wanted to recommend 'Home Safe' by Elizabeth Berg. It is the first of Elizabeth's books that I have read, but I will definitely be reading more.
It is a lovely story about a successful author (Helen) who is in her 50s and is recently widowed. She is struggling and trying to come to terms without her husband and, understandably, has writer's block. She is overly reliant on and protective of her daughter, and this comes out beautifully. It definitely made me think about my relationship with my daughter; am I over protective? Is being protective a natural mother and daughter 'thing'?
I really enjoyed reading the book, but, as always, don't like to give too much of the plot away. Take a look, I don't think that you will be disappointed :) Thank you.
on 14 February 2015
Loss makes Helen Ames start writing as a child, and loss of her husband makes her stop. This is a book about a midlife crisis, the pain of having the comfort of routines shift seismically, sending a person so off kilter, the simplest tasks become impossible. Helen Ames is a successful author, who's creativity is stalled when her husband dies suddenly. Helen "lived in the marriage more than she lived inside herself. For her to lose Dan- especially so suddenly-was to step off a cliff where the falling seemed never to stop." Helen has fallen into the rabbit hole of despair. Grief robs her of her capabilities and leaves her testing the mother- daughter relationship, picking at it like a scab until they both bleed. She simply can't control herself. She realizes that her marriage defined her, and even though she was a prolific writer, there is no self, she is rudderless without the anchor of her husband. "whereas she used to be a whole and happy woman, now she is many pieces of a battered self, slung together in a sack of skin."
Berg gets the devastation of the loss of one's partner. The realization of the codependency, the crippling lassitude that Helen feels. BUT, I did not like Helen, Tessa, or even, Midge. While the beginning of the book delved into the gut wrenching loss of Helen's life partner, it sank into banality, rushing from shallow scene to scene, losing the impact of the captivating introduction. I kept waiting for the ah ha moment, the reveal of who Dan was, yet, the book's characters remained hidden by Helen's whining. She roared with emotion out of the gate, but lost both steam and my interest as the story progressed. I would have loved to feel some triumph for Helen, but could only feel relieved when the story ended. I love Elizabeth Berg's storytelling. Usually she connects with the reader in a personal and all encompassing way. She has a wonderful ability to capture and describe middle age, insecurity, divisions that make us male or female, old and young in a profound and realistic way. Open House and Range of Motion are much better examples of her terrific writing.
on 22 October 2014
I wanted to like this, I really did. The book description sounded excellent. Halfway through the book, I began to realise that were wasn't actually a definitive storyline - not really, and that the blurb was misleading. There was no excitement or anything that really grabbed my interest. Saying that, I didn't dislike this book but just didn't understand the point. This was the first I have read of Elizabeth Berg and I have a couple of her other books on order as the descrptions looked promising. Hopefully I'll have more luck with those!