The ‘us’ in the title is deliciously ambiguous. The opening chapter suggests a tale of conflicted female friendship and, even during the years they have lost contact, the two women’s lives are intertwined. Yet it’s also about the parallel lives of mothers and daughters: although Rebecca’s mother is much more sympathetic than the mother in The Good Children, it is through her that Rebecca experiences the pressure to conform to the gender role defined by her culture and class, and through her that she is punished for her lapse. This theme is enhanced by the way in which the ‘autobiography’ is addressed towards an undisclosed ‘you’, quickly identified as one of Rebecca’s children (and, in contrast to some of the novels we discussed in the “stolen head” post, there was nothing clunky or artificial about this device). For the author’s account of how she discovered her title, along with various other aspects of the novel, see my Q&A with Aria Beth Sloss.
I know I’m supposed to feel things have changed drastically for women over the last fifty years, but I don’t. There are more opportunities, sure, but the ceilings are still there. Aria Beth Sloss.
When I was at university, I studied a course on women writers of the early twentieth century. I was surprised at how much their struggles with autonomy still seemed relevant to me in the early twenty first century. Emma Chapman
I wonder if you agree? What other novels have you enjoyed that address this theme?
Thanks to Picador for my review copy of Autobiography of Us and to Tinder Press for Season to Taste. How to Be a Good Wife is also published by Picador; I won my copy, along with various other props of the good wife, via a competition on Emma Chapman’s blog. The title of this post (Woman, Stranded) is borrowed from Autobiography of Us (p249).