on 1 December 2001
An unusual book in which the stories of a wife and husband are told separately, the reader being left to choose which to read first. Brenda and Jack have been married for twenty years when they have to spend five days apart. The novel concentrates on their thoughts and experiences while they are separated, describing with bittersweet truthfulness the small compromises that occur to make marriage last.
Shields is one of the unsung heroes of the novel, as far as I'm concerned. I am sad to see her books slowly slipping out of print.
She is a championer of the remarkable in the normal, she gives weight to life, to the mildly contented among us. This novel (or two novels) treads the same kind of lines. It's a novel about a marriage, about how everyday lives are as historic as a won/lost battle. It's knowing and beautiful. She knows men and women and their internal lives so very, very well. Indeed, she writes men better than any other female novelist I've read - the first novel here, and Larry's Party, are my favourites among her work, and I think this is in large part due to the quality of the way she illuminates male minds. Indeed, the second novel here did drag a bit (all that quilting!), but the masterly first part more than made up for that.
She was a great novelist.