29 June 2012

Mrs Bridge

From a review in the Guardian by Joshua Ferris of a great and neglected novel: 
No doubt much of what oppresses Mrs Bridge is an unsustainable domestic condition. The generation of women after hers – that of her two daughters – would have more freedom, more opportunity, and more perspicacity. But as Connell pursues this "carbuncular presence", and as it becomes the great preoccupation of the book, deepening and expanding, like the exhalations of a crouching beast, we come to know it as something universal, harrowing, and irremediable: an existential fear, the sour taste of wasted life, the wild desire to rectify that waste. How does one prosper against the threat that one might be skimming over the years, ignorant of how life should have been lived, might be lived, must be lived? What shall I do? What shall I do?
There is no certain answer, and in this uncertainty, the ironic distance between Mrs Bridge and the reader is closed. We no longer see her as victim of one or another comical shock, an object of pity or ridicule, or a hopeless case of repression and neuroses. She is Meursault without the epiphany of atheism, Molloy without the solace of scatology, Dr Rieux without the nobility of resistance. She is a reflection of you and me, an exemplar of our shared humanity and all the terror and opportunity it so briefly provides – so necessary to seize, and so easy to squander. 

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