There are three things I demand to call a book good; it must teach me something, make me feel something - and make me ask questions. This is a good book. I'm not a book reporter - I'm a reader, and this is my personal opinion coloured by the fact that I'm a middle-aged woman - but still trying to be as objective as I can after reading this book. The problem is that it's difficult to stay objective this time!
What I first thought was a love story with an original twist I could cuddle up in the sofa with, isn't just that - it's so much, much more that it's difficult to describe. Here are layers and layers, many stories interwoven. Past and present. Not an easy task, but the author solves it brilliantly.
There are so many books - autobiographical and fictitious - where we're told a story about a person's trial, the fight to get through it all, and in the end we're supposed to be impressed with it when it's over, the main character grinning; "Look what I did!". I'm glad the author didn't fall into this trap.
The book goes from the simple where the main character - Dominique - enters a discussion-forum on net. Straightforward. But it doesn't take long before we're brought on a journey in her life, and we follow her through childhood, youth, adult life with lovers, husbands, children - and unhappy love. Behind all this there's a thinker fighting for her life, for love and for peace of mind. She finds this in the end. The author writes about love and betrayal, about friends and "friends", impossible family relations on many levels. Above this is the love story, beautifully described. We follow Dominique and Ben through their first "meeting" on net, all the pain, happiness and obstacles they go through. It's a relief when happiness is finally there in the end, and Dominique and Ben can start their life together.
The author is a great storyteller, she has a "flowery" language - almost cinematic - that enables us to get to know the surroundings and characters really well; what they look like, sound like, feels like, think like, smell like... There are also moments where the degree of recognition makes me gasp, moments when she moves me to tears - she brings us through the whole register of feelings - from pain to happiness. For me, that's the signature of a gifted writer. The highlights for me was the story of having to have an abortion, and when her oldes daughter moved out - so heartbreakingly described that it was painful to read. But don't get the impression that everything is tragic, it's not! Here are moments of irony and a great sense of humour I hope we will see more of in the future.
Am I making a mistake by mentioning the unpopular term feminism here? I don't think so, all middle-aged women "know" we could have come so much further not only if men understood more, but also if only women would stop hurting each other because of envy and frustration in their own lives - this book tells us stories about this many of us can learn from; if we could only treat each other with a little bit more happiness, a little bit more freedom and respect - understanding that another woman's progress isn't preventing our own. The author's description of how devastating imprudent, insensitive words can be, goes straight to my spine - and stays there long after I finished reading the book. She is never moralizing, she's a voice worth listening to. And don't think this is a book only for women - I know a few men that would really learn something from this book!
I'm left with the same feeling I had when I read Marilyn French's "The women's room" many years ago; a strong story of a strong woman that makes me question my own life. It doesn't get any better than that, does it?