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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable and Rather Grown-Up Novel, 8 Jan 2012
Susie B - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Woman Of My Age (Paperback)
Nina Bawden's 'A Woman of my Age' was first published in 1967 and has recently been re-published as a beautifully covered print on demand edition by Virago Press. The story is first person narrated by the main protagonist, Elizabeth Jourdelay, as she re-evaluates her life and her eighteen-year marriage to her husband, Richard, whilst they are on holiday in Morocco.

Elizabeth is in her late thirties, approaching middle age (she already refers to herself as middle-aged as if she has been there for some time); she married Richard when she was just twenty years old and already pregnant with their first child. She abandoned studying for her degree and moved into a flat in Oxford with Richard, ready to become a wife and mother, surprising the two forward thinking spinster aunts who had brought Elizabeth up, and who'd always encouraged her to become an independent woman. Elizabeth, upset by her aunts' attitude, wanted to prove that she could be happy as a mother and housewife - especially as that was what Richard wanted her to be - but within a short period of time she realized how unfulfilled she really felt. When she considered getting a job, Richard, a schoolmaster and devoted to his job, tried to dissuade her, as did his mother when she said to Elizabeth: "Do you really want one, dear? Richard and I thought you had settled so nicely". As if I were some sort of jelly Elizabeth thought and realizing that she had no support from either Richard or his mother, she resigned herself to becoming a "gloomily devoted mother".

And now, whilst travelling in Morocco, Elizabeth has the time to examine herself and her life; she looks in the mirror "not to see if the grey roots are beginning to show ..or the wrinkles.. the important thing is that I am in the middle of my life and I feel as I did when I was adolescent, that I do not know where to go from here". However, when Richard and Elizabeth meet up with Flora, an attractive divorcee and old friend of Richard's, who just 'happens' to be in Morocco at the same time, Elizabeth begins to see that she will have to make a decision about her future and decide exactly where she wants to go from 'here'. And just when she feels she has made that decision, something very unexpected happens which changes everything.

This is a beautifully written novel where Nina Bawden perceptively depicts the frustrations and tensions that can be present in a long marriage, and how misunderstandings can occur and lead to deception and betrayal. It is true that few of the characters in this novel consistently behave well, but the author cleverly allows the reader access to Elizabeth's and Richard's marriage, so that we can see the dilemmas and deceptions that happen on both sides; and, as the story progresses, we understand how the second half of their marriage may need to be a matter of compromise and conciliation in order to work - and through this, they may find a different but possibly deeper level of love and understanding. 'A Woman of my Age' is an interesting, absorbing and rather grown-up novel by an accomplished and perceptively observant author and one that I very much enjoyed.

4 Stars.
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A Woman of My Age
A Woman of My Age by Nina Bawden
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