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In the Name of Friendship: A Novel
     

In the Name of Friendship: A Novel

by Stephanie Genty (Afterword), Marilyn French
 

Marilyn French’s seven million copy bestseller The Women’s Room crystallized the issues that ignited the women’s movement. Now the acclaimed author updates that classic with a new exploration of the truths and realities behind women’s lives. In the Name of Friendship dares to investigate how the women’s movement changed

Overview


Marilyn French’s seven million copy bestseller The Women’s Room crystallized the issues that ignited the women’s movement. Now the acclaimed author updates that classic with a new exploration of the truths and realities behind women’s lives. In the Name of Friendship dares to investigate how the women’s movement changed the lives of those it touched and what hurdles it left to cross.

Set in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, this wise novel is a group portrait of four disparate women who forge life-altering friendships despite personalities that vary as greatly as their vocations and ages. The novel weaves together a series of family crises with the friendships that help the four women refashion their lives. Maddy, the seventy-six-year-old real estate agent and matriarch of the group, struggles with the gradual death of her angry and rebellious Vietnam-marked son; fifty-year-old Alicia fights to reconnect her gay son with her newly retired husband; seventy-year-old musician Emily strives to bridge the gap with her estranged niece right at the moment her composition career starts to finally bloom; and Jenny, the thirty-year-old painter and baby of the group, questions the life she has created with her successful painter husband and tries to decide if she wants more from life.

With this unusual group of multi-generational ladies, French tells a truly rare tale about four women who accidentally come into each other’s lives and in the process form an enduring friendship. It is a story of supporting one another, of looking at the grim conflicts created by cultural expectations of women, and realizing you are not alone—truly a tale of continuing hope.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Marilyn French is "brilliant . . . full of life and passions that ring true as crystal." —The Washington Post

"French brings a novelist's eye, a scholar's sense of detail, and a feminist's worldview . . . [this is] a novel for women with a progressive perspective on gender bias and an old-fashioned fondness for discussing the curveballs life lobs." —Publishers Weekly

"Without romanticizing women's friendships, she shows them to be the saving grace of civilization." —Gloria Steinem

"French continues to write about the inner lives of women with insight and intimacy." —The New York Times Book Review

"This finely detailed group portrait . . . [celebrating] women's cherishing friendships and creativity offers striking observations about how and why women's lives have improved and suggests that . . . it's time to bring progressive ideas . . . out into the light." —Booklist

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558615212
Publisher:
Feminist Press at CUNY, The
Publication date:
05/01/2006
Series:
Classic Feminist Writers Series
Pages:
250
Product dimensions:
8.56(w) x 5.66(h) x 1.38(d)

Meet the Author


Marilyn French (1929-2009) was an American writer and notable feminist scholar. She received her BA from Hofstra College (now Hofstra University) in 1951; in 1964, she returned to Hofstra to earn her M.A. and later earned her PhD from Harvard University. French is best known for her first novel, the 21-million-copy bestseller The Women's Room, which is considered one of the most influential works of the modern feminist movement, and its sequel, In the Name of Friendship. She spent fifteen years researching and writing her immensely readable four volume women's history series From Eve to Dawn: A History of Women in the World. Her other non-fiction works include Beyond Power: On Women, Men, and Morals; The War Against Women; and her memoir on her battle with esophageal cancer, A Season in Hell. In addition to writing, French taught at Hofstra, Harvard, and Holy Cross College.

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