In the Name of Friendship: A Novel

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Overview

"Set in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts in the landmark year 2000, this novel is a group portrait of four disparate women whose personalities vary as greatly as their circumstances and ages. The four weather past and present family crises while collectively they forge emotional links that help each person refashion her life." A seventy-six-year-old real estate agent and matriarch of the group, Maddy agonizes as lung cancer claims her already embittered, Vietnam-marked son; Maddy's friend since grade school, Emily Oldfield, ...
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Overview

"Set in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts in the landmark year 2000, this novel is a group portrait of four disparate women whose personalities vary as greatly as their circumstances and ages. The four weather past and present family crises while collectively they forge emotional links that help each person refashion her life." A seventy-six-year-old real estate agent and matriarch of the group, Maddy agonizes as lung cancer claims her already embittered, Vietnam-marked son; Maddy's friend since grade school, Emily Oldfield, seventy years old, is gradually bridging relations with the estranged niece she raised as her own child ; fifty-year-old Alicia fights to reconnect her newly retired husband with their gay son; lastly, Jenny, the thirty-something artist, finds that the compelling urge for a baby destabilizes her fundamentally unequal marriage to Tim Halliwell, an internationally recognized painter.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
French (The Women's Room; From Eve to Dawn) brings a novelist's eye, a scholar's sense of detail and a feminist's worldview to this didactic examination of marriage, parenthood, work and the creative process. Four friends meet to celebrate Lady Day, one of several "private holidays" celebrated at a Berkshires retreat for the affluent and artistic: Maddy, 76, a lawyer's wife and mother turned real estate agent; Emily, 70, a music teacher and composer; Alicia, 50, a New York-born writer whose psychologist husband has difficulty accepting his gay son; and Jenny, 30, an artist fitfully married to a more successful artist. In alternating chapters, French follows each woman as she struggles with her domestic grievances. To her credit, French provides no easy answers where families are concerned, though she has no problem defining what relationships are, what they ought to be and what the associated emotions feel like. And while her female characters are all strong and have no trouble finding success, the men feel uncomfortably campy, making this a novel for women with a progressive perspective on gender bias and an old-fashioned fondness for discussing the curveballs life lobs. Footnoted afterword and author bibliography by Stephanie Genty. (June) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In 1977, French made waves with The Women's Room, a novel about women and the strides they had made toward freedom and equality at the time. This work is something of an update or a sequel. Four women of different ages, different backgrounds, and different lifestyles find themselves in a small town in the Berkshires. They become friends and support one another through life's ups and downs while sharing insights about the place of women in the world from ancient times to the present. The older women are bitter about the lives they were forced into, while the younger women are just finding themselves in lives previously ruled by men. Together, they grow, change, and improve. French is both an academic and a novelist, and her fiction forms a very thin veil over the history and sociology of the feminist movement, with dialog and stream-of-consciousness monologs that are preachy and pedantic. In addition, the setting is artificial and the happy ending a little too sweet. Recommended primarily for readers of feminist fiction. Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Ashaway Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Four women parcel out ready-made feminist wisdom to one another, often over tea, in a bucolic New England setting. Alicia, Maddy, Emily and Jenny form an insular society in an idyllic Massachussetts town. They're from different generations, pursue different careers and come from different backgrounds, but they find emotional satisfaction in each other's company. In the beginning, Maddy and Emily, a generation older than the other two, represent the wisdom and reassuring solidity that come from lives led to the fullest. Alicia and Jenny, younger by at least a generation, see in the two older women examples of how to succeed the hard way, admiring them for making independent choices and living on their own terms. For their part, Maddy and Emily see in Alicia and Jenny limitless possibilities for growth and success. The novel moves back and forth between the perspectives of the characters, gradually revealing that each woman, no matter how successful she seems to her friends, has made choices that diminished her. However, the story is nothing if not life-affirming, so no matter what happened to the women in their pasts-from losing contact with a beloved niece to putting artistic greatness on the back burner for the sake of a husband-each will help the other achieve a sense of closure. Paintings are painted, symphonies are performed, marriages are straightened out and families are mended, all with the loving support of a magical friendship circle. There are some bright moments, foremost the carefully drawn characters of Emily and Maddy, but there are many others in which the narrative is so eager to evaluate the benefits and the shortcomings of various strands of feminism that the story fallsby the wayside. Jenny and Alicia seem in particular to be cardboard cutouts, and the author's pedagogic aims trump her interest in fully developed characters and plots. French's sixth novel (My Summer with George, 1996, etc.) is filled with pointed insights about womanhood, but not many fully realized women.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558615212
  • Publisher: Feminist Press at CUNY, The
  • Publication date: 5/1/2006
  • Series: Classic Feminist Writers Series
  • Pages: 250
  • Product dimensions: 8.56 (w) x 5.66 (h) x 1.38 (d)

Meet the Author


Pioneering feminist thinker Marilyn French has written numerous works of literary criticism, history, memoir, and fiction. Her bestselling classic, The Women's Room, embodied the issues that ignited the women's movement for millions of readers. Recently, she has published the novel In the Name of Friendship and a four volume series of women's history entitled From Eve to Dawn. Stéphanie Genty is an associate professor at the Université d'Evry-Val d'Essonne and she wrote a doctoral thesis on gender identity and feminine malaise in the works of Marilyn French. She has published on Margaret Atwood and Nadine Gordimer.
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2009

    Liked it.

    I was so glad to find this at exactly the moment when I needed just this kind of affirmation. I especially liked that the central characters were of various ages and from economically diverse origins. Marilyn French has a way of weaving social issues, especially those pertaining to women, into her stories in a way that invites the reader to examine them from a personal perspective. For those of you who usually like the dimestore romance type of books, this novel has some of the same elements (relationships, drama, love) but with more substance. Try it out.

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