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on 8 September 2015
reads like a PhD dissertation. Very heavy going in parts and relies on just a few references so that we do not get a rounded view of aging. The reviews quoted seemed mostly to be from authors whose works were cited in the book!! I didn't enjoy this.
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Diana Athill and Penelope Lively have explored the bumpy territory of female ageing from the perspective of an insider. Both have written enjoyable reflections, part memoir, part whimsy and each giving a very personal view.

Lynne Segal's exploration of the same subject in Out of Time takes us into a totally different dimension; the scope is vast and difficult to define. It's certainly academic, but it's also very readable. It's literary, with reference throughout to notable authors and their work. Her feminist and radical socialist background speak clearly but as a measured voice of fact, reason and experience. It's political, historical, part biographical...but most of all it's amazing. Overall it's a definitive, impressive and frequently challenging social study.

The premise of cultural conditioning is referenced throughout. She starts with gender expectation where, through folklore and myth, the older female is strongly represented as gorgon, witch, harridan and the like. A figure made monstrous solely by age and gender. A negative and very prescriptive portrayal. Currently, older people are often seen as those responsible for depleting scarce resources. Many would prefer that the baby boomer generation which 'never had it so good' would now just slope off quietly and leave scarce resources to those who deserve them, the young.

As they age, women often wonder what's happened to the face in the mirror. Lynne Segal considers this in depth. What's happened to their expectations, sexuality and ambition? Is it a period of 'devastation and decline' or 'preservation and possibility'? How old is 'old'? Is a person old if they 'seem young'? How do you age well?

It's meticulously researched, often revealing and poignant, particularly when considering loneliness, loss and bereavement. It's thought provoking. I like the idea of temporal vertigo; where age allows time travel through all the ages experienced. A sleeping 70 year old can be 17 in their dreams! But more than that, how are past experiences absorbed and used to make a better present and future for each person? Lynne Segal reminds us that the generation which used political activism to improve the lot of women still has a voice. We should use it. Out of Time is intellectual but totally engaging and unique. All in all, one of the most powerful books I've read in recent years and one I shall return to.

My thanks to the publisher, Verso, for a review copy via Netgalley.
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Old age is regarded by many as something which happens to other people. We try and defy it by means of cosmetic surgery, dressing in the clothes we wore when young or in the latest fashions aimed at people in their twenties. Once they are over fifty many people report that they are invisible to most others and disregarded. The world seems to be organised round the young and the old and infirm are regarded as an unnacceptable drain on everyone's resources.

But are there other ways of looking at old age? Having reached my seventh decade and starting to think that maybe I ought to investigate the subject, I find that I don't try and avoid my age. I'm a glass half full person and I look for the advantages and many of the writers quoted in this fascinating study and thought provoking study look for the advantages too. I have had many positive examples of old age from close relatives in my life so I tend to think of it in a different way. I live in an area where there are a high proportion of retired people and I am constantly presented with examples of people in their sixties, seventies or eighties getting around under their own steam and enjoying life apparently to the full.

The author writes well and quotes many optimistic views of aspects of old age as well as many less optimistic views. Some even go so far as to say that anyone who can see good things about ageing much be morons or at the very least seriously deluded. This is a life affriming - and age affirming - book and it will cause anyone approaching their more mature years to examine their own hopes, views and fears of and for their own future. However it doesn't seek to gloss over the disadvantages and of course there are disadvantages to every age.

There are notes to accompany the text and I'm sure many readers will find themselves launched on a journey of exploration into the subject of ageing and old age in literature, art, politics, sociology and psychology. If you want to find out how our leading writers, philosophers and celebrities have looked at old age - both good and bad - then read this book. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review.
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on 5 June 2014
Lynn Segal has done a great job here tackling a subject which many of us still don't really want to think about. But the reality of ageing has come upon our post-war generation and we are now starting to look at it afresh as though needing to re-assure ourselves. Her concern is mostly to do with ageing women and she taps into her own experience as well as that of various well known women authors to throw fresh light and no small measure of optimism on the subject. But in her discussion of male authors (Roth, Amis, Updike mainly) Lynn concentrates rather uncritically on their phallic preoccupations in such a way that ageing for men comes to represent an inevitable and frightening all-encompassing impotence. What is needed instead is what she has attempted to provide for women - a view of ageing for men in which it is possible to think in terms of enrichment, release, fruition and increased sensitivity. Having said this, the book is well worth reading.
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on 28 July 2016
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on 5 March 2015
A wonderful and enlightening view of aging.
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on 11 December 2014
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