Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Marilyn French: The Love Children

As a person who loves musing about the changing nature of social relationships and their historical contexts, I thoroughly enjoyed Marilyn French's final novel, The Love Children (NYC: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2009). 

French (1929-2009) came to speak at UNC-Chapel Hill back in the very late 70s or early 80s, in preparation for which I finished The Women's Room (1977), her first novel. At the time, being an undergraduate and understanding very little about what she meant, I felt she seemed a little rough on men. After hearing her speak, though, and from personal experience over the years, I've come to agree with her a lot more. If she was a little rough on men, there was good reason for it.

And now The Love Children. This novel focuses on a daughter (Jess) and her parents and friends mostly within the context of the late 60s and 70s in New England.  It reads like a memoir and carries a sharp awareness of mortality.  At one point she notes via Jess, people would be far less likely to harbor jealousy if they knew how people were going to die. Grim, but memorable. 

The biggest surprise to me about The Love Children was not its sharp observations about people and society, but rather French's obvious delight in food.  Not any food, but good food, its preparation and social importance.  If memory serves, one character notes that until recently (the 70s), Americans had mostly a "Frontier palate, frozen in place by the Great Depression" or something like that.  Jess delights in cultivating, preparing and serving tasty organic foods, keeping her still in the forefront of human culinary consciousness even in 2010.  When I finished the book, I was hungry.   

Today's Rune: Fertility.


the walking man said...

Mother France (hiya mom) must not have been an avid feminist as was Mother Durfee. But I bet unlike Mother Durfee, Mother France could at least scramble an egg without using a microwave.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sounds pretty interesting actually.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I remember THE WOMAN'S ROOM very well. In particular I remember a scene where the husband wants his wife to always be in a dress sans underwear. It bothered me then and still does. It sort of embodied the movement for me.

jodi said...

Erik, I will be ibooking this one soon. Thanks for the review!

Johnny Yen said...

I haven't read "The Women's Room," but remember the scathing reviews of the movie based on the book-- the reviewer felt that men were getting ripped on unfairly.

Someone posted on my Facebook recently that after watching "Mad Men," they are glad they're not a woman living in that time. I do know that after hearing stories my mother has of having to bite her lip and deal with discrimination, sexual harrassment,etc as a woman in the work force from 1960 on, I can understand if there was anger conveyed.

Lana Gramlich said...

Considering my extensively restrictive migraine diet (& the longing for foods with flavor & texture that it brings,) I think I'll pass on the book...at least for now. *L*