Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Marilyn French: the author whose novel did change lives

How sad to read in the Guardian today that Marilyn French had died [obituary]. I looked out my battered copy of the 'The Women's Room'. It was easy to find between a copy of a novel by Micheal Frayn which I don't remember ever reading, and my collection of Stephen Fry novels and autobiographies. Like Kate Mosse (Guardian G2 tribute article), I first read 'The Women's Room' as an undergraduate and some of its messages have stayed with me and to a certain extent shaped my life. Mira, the central character of the novel, chooses to pursue her own academic career rather than accept the inevitable compromises of following her academic boyfriend. The ending is a very poignant picture of a solitary female academic watching a noisy family on the beach, the family of her erstwhile boyfriend. I made the opposite decision; my husband's academic career continues to prosper, I've followed him across three continents and we have a very noisy family of teenagers. I don't have any regrets 25 years after I made that first decision to follow my heart rather than my academic calling.

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