The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

By REBECCA MILLER

When we meet Pippa Lee in the dreamlike opening chapters of Rebecca Miller’s first novel, she seems anything but complex. As the third wife of Herb, a literary lion 30 years her senior, Pippa has managed to settle herself neatly into a trophy wife’s mold, having produced twins and played the consummate hostess to the publishing cognoscenti for decades. But Herb’s heart attack and the couple’s abrupt move to a suburban retirement community jar the serenity and security of her existence, releasing Pippa from the demands of city society while being surrounded by octogenarians. Through ensuing episodes of walking in her sleep (and eating, smoking, and driving), Pippa discovers her lost voice, literally, as she sets off on a path to recover the memory of her lost self ?- the speed-popping, S&M wild child she was before she met Herb. Switching to a first-person narrative, the story’s pace changes dramatically as Pippa offers reminiscences that reveal the quiet voice of an observer who, despite emerging “from Suky’s womb fulsome and alert, fat as a six-month-old, and covered in fine, black fur,” has been reactive almost all her life. Miller, as daughter of the illustrious Arthur and wife of Daniel Day-Lewis, should understand what it is like to stand in the long shadow cast by a famous man. However, Miller’s painting, acting, and writing and directing films have established her as a success in her own right. Perhaps that is why she gives us a Pippa who scrutinizes her “secret lives” and discovers that she may still have more to offer at 50 years of age than a perfectly golden crŠme brûlée.