on 28 May 2010
I found this an absorbing read. It wasn't just about sex, the back story of Ms Juska's life and diversions, such as her experiences in San Quentin, were interesting insights into her personality and her willingness to try and help others. Her wry comments on her adventures in New York, particularly at the Berg Collection were amusing. She is honest too, her use of amphetemines and struggles as a mother are exposed, just as much as the frailties of the men she dates. For me this was far more about one person's pursuit of happiness than it was about sexual adventuring, and she showed how that pursuit, whether successful or not, can help give meaning to a life. Sometimes her style was overly convoluted, probably due to the influence of Trollope, but that was a small price to pay for such an inspiring story.
on 6 February 2008
Juska's memoir is certaily frank and a refreshing change from the sexploits of more youthful women. Although I would recommend it if you are looking for something with more depth than say, for example, 'Girl With A One Track Mind', I found some of this memoir somewhat pompous in places, for example, when Juska joins a choir and goes into unnecessary depth about the entry process. But at the same time, would have liked to know more about the creative writing she taught in prison. The sex scenes are quite graphic and almost technically medical (problems with lack of lubrication and impotence) which might be due to the fact that we are dealing with older people, but overall, I would recommend it.
on 23 January 2015
I don't know whether there are more books around about people's sex lives, or if I'm just running into more of them than I used to. (I nearly put "coming across" in that last sentence, but that would have provided an unpleasant and totally inaccurate image, so I thought better of it). In the last twelve months I have read supposed biographies and one work of fiction about women working as prostitutes in both London and New York, a male prostitute in 1970s Los Angeles and a woman who hadn't had sex for three years.
Whilst these books were varied in quality, explicitness and enjoyability, they all had one thing in common. The people involved, whether real or just a fictional character, were all relatively young. In only one of the books was the main character over 30 and then only just. Maybe the older generation don't have sex or they're a little more prudish about telling the world when they do.
That was what I believed, anyway. Until I discovered Jane Juska's "Round Heeled Woman", which explains the difference between her book and these others by being subtitled "My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance". This could either prove to be a more mature outlook, or slightly unnerving in the same way that you don't like to think about your parents still having sex.
Jane Juska is a California resident and semi-retired English teacher. Finding herself no longer working full-time, her mind turns to the one thing she missed out on for a lot of her life, having been divorced for thirty years or so and celibate for much of that period. Now in her mid sixties, she decides that it is about time she returned to the world of sex and puts an advert in the New York Review of books, wondering if any man would want to have sex with a woman of advanced age.
What follows is essentially the story of Jane's life from this point on, mixed in with bits about her past life and how she came to be in the situation she finds herself in and describes. She tells us of her upbringing in a small town, her adult life and her love life up until and including her divorce. Looking forwards, she covers her present life from before placing the advert, the replies she received and what she then did about them.
It's a very well written book. As an English teacher for many years, I suspect that Juska has been exposed to many examples of fine writing and has quite possibly learned from many of them. There are some very poetic phrases dotted about here and there and some well thought out descriptions. It's a fairly simply written book, but it's a joy to read. Or it would be, were it not for one thing.
For all the pretty words, it's not a story worth telling. The sub title of the book is misleading, as there is little sex and even less romance here, despite what has been hoped for. The parts about her past read very much like Juska is trying to settle a score against her past. The feeling is less that she is looking to the future, more trying to dispel her past and drag herself out of something of a rut after so many years trapped in it.
This really is therapy for the author down on paper. Whilst I'm sure she got something out of it, I certainly didn't. Maybe, having read so much about other people's sex lives up until now, I was expecting more than someone of the author's age could deliver. Equally, however, some of the choices made were unwise and it appears that the author is quite a weak character who is so eager to find something other than what she has that she'll do just about anything to improve the situation. It's a case of believing the grass is greener elsewhere and setting off to have a look, but only checking the edge of the field and not heading out to the middle to see if it's any different out there.
Whether the author found the satisfaction she sought is something best left for the reader to find out. The reader themselves is unlikely to end up satisfied, however, as there is such a trial to get there. It's nicely written, but nicely written nothing is still nothing. This is a book that can bring unexpected delight in bits and pieces - a phrase here and a sentence there, but the novel as a whole is hardly worth reading for them, as they are few and far between.
I fail to see quite who might get any joy from a book such as this. It's a disappointment for anyone who, like me, has been reading this kind of real life sex novels and biographies, as there's not enough of either life or sex for this to be worthwhile. It's not for those who like chick-lit, as Juska seems too old and too tired to be a chick and it doesn't have the same level of activity and excitement that many chick-lit novels have.
Even those who generally like biographies will be disappointed, as it's not enough of a life to be worth writing about. The only admirable thing here is the bravery of a sixty something woman to write about her life and to even place the advert in the first place. If you feel you can admire that, then maybe this would be for you.
The writing shows how books like this should be written. The contents show why many of them should never be published.
This review may also appear, in whole or in part, under my name at any or all of www.ciao.co.uk, www.thebookbag.co.uk, www.goodreads.com, www.amazon.co.uk and www.dooyoo.co.uk
on 28 December 2011
I gave up on this book about 50 pages from the end as it's just not worth finishing. It is a self-indulgent, therapy-induced download of Jane Juska's life. I expect someone once told her it would be cathartic to record her life's musings and pitfalls and that is exactly what she's done. Cathartic for her maybe, but boring for the rest of us. It is a dull book bereft of any real storyline. The idea of it being a 67 year old's renaissance and sexual awakening is severely overegging the pudding. The responses from men to her classified "singles" ad and the ensuing relationships account for such a small portion of the book. I heard Juska talk about "A round-heeled woman" on Radio 4 and it sounded fun, witty and different - a kind of vagina monologues for the silver surfer generation. It is anything but. It is a whining, navel-gazing, "how do I cope with life" book. I found it supremely irritating and mis-sold.
on 23 January 2004
Wonderful, I thought I was over the hill before I read "A Round-heeled Woman: My Late-life Adventures in Sex and Romance" but it made me realise just how much fun I should - could be having! I am just over seventy-eight years old and I know many people would be horrified to know I'm still voracious in bed! But I have rediscovered the art of sex and romance, sometimes with other women!
This book teaches us that age should be no barrier, I'm just as much a goer as I was when I was twenty!
on 20 October 2012
I looked forward to reading this book after looking at the reviews for it. I admire the authors courage and chutzpah in placing the ad and then following through with its promise. Although I enjoyed reading of her adventures I also found it very sad. By the end I wasn't convinced of her rationale behind her project and thought she would have been a lot more honest but possibly even more sad, if she had said that what she was really looking for was a partner not just one night stands. Her falling in love with the much younger man brought her true desire to the surface. Sadly she didn't meet someone she wanted to spend her life with, just a group of men who didn't treat her very well, with the exception of the much younger man. Also there was a level of detachment and coldness in her depiction of her advantures. Maybe this was a way she could protect herself emotionally. She might have been better off having sex with herself until she met someone who she meant more to than just a quickie even if that quickie is repeated several times.
on 6 February 2012
I was inspired to read the book having read a review of the play which had recently transferred from Hammersmith's Lyric theatre to the West End. I ordered the book and by the time it arrived had only enough time to read half a dozen chapters before I went to see the play. I thought the play was brilliant. It was a poignant celebration of the subtle confidence and self acceptance that can come (if you are lucky) in later life. It took the audience along the story's journey of the tears, trials and triumphs and the bold assertive land grab to satisfy her physical and to some extent emotional needs.
The big difference between the book and the play and my level of enjoyment was in the editing. The book felt too long and after a while the whole sex - with self, with others, always on the mind - just got a bit too repetitive and rather boring. That said it's the first of its kind and a very difficult subject to write about especially in our ageist/young mania society where even a laptop is called vintage after 5 years!
Jane Juska in the telling her tale displays a fascinating mixture of courage, humility and a determined selfishness in going after her own desires. The literary references, the pages of dilemmas and people who are all beautifully imperfect and the sheer audacity of the story make it worth reading. Some may however choose to skim read through some of the endless detail.
Hat's off to you Ms Juska, if I find myself in a similar situation I sincerely hope I have even half your courage, optimism and gutsiness!