Alix Rebick is the heroine of Linda Grant's Still Here
, and at the age of 49 is still feisty, lustful, and larger than life--all the things that "real women" shouldn't be, according to Joseph Shields. She's also single, and hating it. "What do I want? Rapture
. When do I want it? Now
...You can't kill it in me...There is no point in looking for consolation in gardening, knitting, good works, pets, travel, cookery, country walks..."
Alix is back in Liverpool watching over her dying mother; Joseph is an American architect, building a hotel as part of Liverpool's regeneration. They meet: she wants him; he admires her, but longs to reunite with his wife Erica back in Chicago. The alternating first-person chapters each ruminate about the past, speculate about the future, and only occasionally refer to the other, despite their involvement--or lack of it--being presented as the novel's pivotal axis.
Linda Grant is brilliant at creating setting, historical and contemporary, and her affectionate rendering of Liverpool--warts and all. This observation and precise detail is what brings Still Here to life: the turn-of-the-century Jewish diaspora longing for the United States and having to make do with Liverpool; the 1960s city of Alix's youth; her mother's Dresden childhood; her father as saviour-doctor to the Irish poor; early Beatles; and, of course, the weight of the Holocaust. Joseph's rebellion against his rabbinical father, his refusal to recall his fighting in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Berkeley and early marriage are also recounted in his sometimes priggish, sometimes uptight and uncomprehending way.
Grant is good on ageing and its effects on body and mind, and at the way the past tunnels into the present. But for a novel with sexual desire--and crucially women's desire--as one of its themes, the momentum keeps getting stalled over the issue of will they, or won't they? A sort of coitus interruptus instead of any real dynamic between Alix and Joseph frustrates Grant's otherwise very readable novel.--Ruth Petrie
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Expertly interweaving the trivial and profound... Still Here was deservedly long-listed for the Booker Prize" -- Observer
"Grant [is] a thoughtful and provoking commentator" -- Guardian