Sunday, May 25, 2008

Good Summer Reading for Anglophiles: A Book Review

Virginia Ironside's No! I Don't Want to Join a Book Club (Plume, 2008) is not about book clubs. This humorous and ironic novel is about Marie Sharp's dealing with turning 60. Marie is a product of the "freewheeling 60's." She's seen and done it all: drugs, sex, career, marriage, a son, divorce.

In diary form, Marie reveals her thoughts on aging. She looks forward to growing her roses and relaxing, to giving up on men and sex, and to resisting all the activities generally recommended for seniors, including book clubs. She is determined to face aging in her own way.

Marie is feisty, determined, and British, at least as we Americans think of older British women. She has her memories good and bad, her friends, her married son, her cat, her garden, and a great ironic sense of humor. Remembering failed relationships, Marie vows to give up sex and even buys a single bed. Still, she sometimes thinks of her first love, Archie, and wonders, "What if?"

Marie has mixed feelings about becoming a grandmother, but takes to it with gusto once she begins to help tend to her grandson. She learns to deal with the lingering death of a gay male friend. She encounters Archie again, now a widower.

This is a humorous, fascinating story of an aging woman who takes pride in being unconventional, yet eventually comes to terms with the realities of aging. She moves from a stiff-upper-lip kind of pessimism and a sense of irony toward hope and the realization that she can cope very well. She even looks forward to a date with Archie--but she gives no indication that she'll ever join a book club.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne

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