The Middle Ages

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Overview

From the acclaimed author of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry comes a sexy, witty urban love story for the ages.

For architect and single mom Jane Larson, life has become a numbing routine. Each morning she ascends from the subway to face the same job she's had for eighteen years: designing chain banks, grocery stores, and dry cleaners. In the evening she goes home to her teenage daughters who are increasingly critical of her. She's lost all interest in relationships and love, and her ...

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Overview

From the acclaimed author of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry comes a sexy, witty urban love story for the ages.

For architect and single mom Jane Larson, life has become a numbing routine. Each morning she ascends from the subway to face the same job she's had for eighteen years: designing chain banks, grocery stores, and dry cleaners. In the evening she goes home to her teenage daughters who are increasingly critical of her. She's lost all interest in relationships and love, and her whole life feels frozen. But when she is suddenly let go from her firm, disaster turns into opportunity. She is forced to muster the courage to pursue her career dreams. And she begins an exhilarating, long-distance correspondence with Jack, her college flame.

Before long, her intimate conversations with Jack turn passionate, and Jane discovers that life after forty can be thrilling after all. But will the distance between Jack and Jane keep them apart? Can happily-ever-after be a reality for people who've done it all before?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A 40-something New Yorker gets a second chance at love and life in this warm-hearted if wandering third novel by Fields (Crossing Brooklyn Ferry; Lily Beach). Divorced and the mother of teenaged twins, Jane Larsen has worked for the same Manhattan architectural firm for 18 years, designing for chain businesses rather than the dream houses she'd prefer. Disenchanted with men, equally disenchanted with her own overweight and over-the-hill appearance, she's given up on finding love again. But when she's downsized, she takes that as an opportunity to return to her dream of designing houses (the Brooklyn brownstone she renovated for herself is lovingly described), and using the Internet she locates Jack Crashin, her true love whom she hasn't seen in nearly 30 years, the man who first inspired her to become an architect. Sparks begin to fly long-distance-he's in Nashville-and eventually the two reunite. Will Jack and Jane be able to make it work the second time around, despite many complicating factors? Their e-mail exchanges become maudlin, and Jane's view of herself as an unattractive, "cellulitic" woman past her prime is hardly uplifting, all of which is a shame since the author's message-about the need to rearrange one's life in order to avoid regrets-is resoundingly positive. If readers can get past the flaws, Jane's story may resonate with those looking for midlife inspiration. Agent, Lisa Bankoff. (Aug. 1) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
From the author of Crossing Brooklyn comes a sophisticated urban love story that will appeal to readers who have reached their own "middle ages." Amicably divorced from the father of her twin teenaged daughters, Jane Larsen lives well on her architect's salary from the prestigious New York firm where she has spent her entire career. Yet she finds herself bored with the commercial building assignments and longs for some excitement. On a lark, Jane searches the Internet for her first real love, a long-lost college boyfriend who also stirred her early interest in architecture. She finds him living in Nashville, and they reconnect over the distance by sustaining an increasingly intimate e-mail correspondence. Meanwhile, when her firm is faced with trimming costs, Jane is fired with only a five-month severance package. Although concerned about her financial future and her ability to find an equally good position at her age, Jane realizes that this setback frees her to pursue her dream of designing houses. She jumps at the offer of a commission from a handsome stranger, who also threatens to become a less distant lover. The complexities make for very enjoyable reading. Highly recommended for all fiction collections. - Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A New York architect loses her job and falls in love-in this spry little Brooklyn-set romance. One thing among many that sets Jane Larsen apart from so many modern female protagonists is the refreshing lack of neuroses. Not to mention a purpose in her life. To wit: She isn't happy with her fortysomething body but no more so than is to be expected. She doesn't work at a glossy magazine, clocking in every day for over two decades at a Manhattan architectural firm instead. She's got two teenaged daughters on the verge of becoming true hellions, an ex-husband who's not exactly what she wanted (thus the divorce) but a decent enough father, and a gorgeous Park Slope brownstone that she restored herself. The complication in Jane's life is not a midlife crisis-though she does have a certain lack of drive these days-but a much more practical concern: She just got fired. Stepping quite ably into the gap, Jane's best friend Peggy sets her up with a guy who's devastatingly handsome, adores Jane and, happily enough, needs a house designed. The fact that this is all just too neat should come as no surprise. More out of left field is the friendship Jane has just renewed with an old college flame, Jack, a fellow architect, via e-mail. Jane and Jack stumble toward romance in their increasingly passionate and revealing letters while, meantime, Jane tries to figure out what she's going to do with her life. Perhaps after finishing the just-too-pat ending, some readers may think that they've been had, that Fields (Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, 1997, etc.) tricked them into thinking she was going to deliver a more serious and meaningful piece of work. But Fields has such a smooth, knowing way with hercharacters-only very occasionally slipping into melodrama-that it's easy to let her get away with just about everything. Warm and welcoming fiction that should benefit from some very strong word-of-mouth.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060517465
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/8/2003
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Edition description: First Perennial Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Jennie Fields

Jennie Fields is the author of Lily Beach and The Middle Ages. She received a master's degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. She is a senior vice president of a New York advertising agency, and she lives with her daughter in Brooklyn, New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Men used to follow me. They did. Honest to God. Right up out of the subway like rats following the Pied Piper. I know you're looking at me and wondering, What the hell is she talking about? She's ordinary. She's overweight. She's old! She's panting as she climbs the subway steps. Fifty-four. Fifty-five. Fifty-six. How many steps does it take to kill a middle-aged woman? Okay. In this ivory coat, I know I look like a jar of mayonnaise. I saw myself in a store window yesterday. I glanced fetchingly into the window and thought, What the hell is that?

It wasn't always like this. In the early eighties, construction workers used to annoy me with obscenities.

"Hey, baby, those forty Ds ya got?"

In the early eighties, I could sit between two fat people on the subway and still have room on either side. In the early eighties, I was twice mistaken for Andrea Marcovicci. Remember her? No.

Okay. I know you're saying, "Time passes. We get older every single second. Get used to it." Believe me. I'm trying.

Rising from the subway, I view the world above, and sigh. Another Times Square morning. The neon signs blink on and off and on again. Except they're not neon anymore. They're TVs the size of the Parthenon. And diodes and readouts. The sky above Manhattan is that shade of blue pink that smells of New Jersey. And here I am, yet again, on my way to my job as an architect.

I have been toiling at architecture for twenty-three years now. And lately, it's as if I've been pricked and all the juices have run out. It's 1999, and the architecture portion of my psyche is beginning to resemble beef jerky. Dried and cured. Idesign chains of banks, chains of supermarkets, chains of dry cleaners. I find myself tellingmy friends , Well, I didn't really design that. Committee influence. You know." I have begun to think that if I ever was any good, I've lost touch with it. I worry that perhaps creativity is the exclusive domain of the young. (The majority of the people we hire these days were in diapers and banging their heads against the bars of their cribs in the early eighties.) Walking down Broadway, I try to refute the power of youth. Great geniuses in later life ... ummm ... (1) Georgia O'Keeffe; (2) Grandma Moses; (3) George Burns. There must be more ...

They were no longer juicy. Nobody followed them. And yet, look at the impact they made, so late in life! Georgia O'Keeffe. Have you ever seen a picture of her in her later years? She was beautiful. Beautiful as driftwood tossed for years in the surf. Character. She had character like nobody's business. And George Burns. He still made movies till the end. He still made people laugh, into his nineties, for God's sake. And Grandma Moses. Well, I don't know much about her. She became famous for painting like a child. Maybe she shouldn't count.

A mother with two young girls is passing me in the opposite direction on Broadway. Oh, yes. I recognize her. That was me too. It's only nine-forty-five A.M. and the girls, all blond and flyaway, are already sticky with purple lollipops. Their dark-haired mother looks haggard, worried, miserable. The girls are yanking her forward, their tongues and faces slathered with goofy grape. For one brief second, she catches my eye. The look she gives me is complex and affecting. On one hand, she is screeching for help; on the other, she is smiling lopsidedly. "How funny that I should be at the mercy of all this," her look says. "Me, Elise Farcus, once beautiful, once desired. These wonderful little girls. These sticky little lollipops. This is my life."

Ah yes. I recognize her. Come the late eighties that was me. A woman with small children. Too tired to care that my breasts were nominally still pointing upward. Too involved with my twin daughters to feel sexual when men smiled at me, which they did less and less. Daniel, their father, never seemed to.

In my twenties, I was desirable but insecure. In my thirties, I was covered with spit up or had toddler bags of Cheerios edging out my pockets, and living with a man who'd lost all interest in sex with me, let alone romance. In my forties, I'm free of all that: the toddlers are grown, the man is gone, but where the hell did my beauty go? On this ordinary morning, this strikes me as a cruel joke. I pull my ivory coat around me, cross Broadway to my office building, just avoiding getting run down by a bicycle messenger with a whistle and a yellow jacket. He is free, this bike messenger, and wild, and appears as though he doesn't care who he runs over. I, on the other hand, am an indentured servant. Indentured to my mortgage, my daughters' private school tuition.

I am about to walk up the steps to the plaza of my office building yet again, and then I stop. People pile up behind me, there in the middle of the sidewalk. I am shoved, cursed at. The crowd flows around me as if I were a rock in a stream. Still, I can't seem to move forward. It is a Thursday. An ordinary Thursday. Yet my office building looms like the monolith in 2001. Frightening, ominous. Must I go there? I have a bank drawing laid out on my computer likea patient on an operating table. But I simply can't move forward, or rather, I can't move forward up the stairs to Paramount Plaza.

"Lady. What the hell you doin'?"

"For Chrissake, move!"

It's rather exciting to be shouted at, to call attention to myself at all. But I can't go in. I really can't.

The Middle Ages. Copyright © by Jennie Fields. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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First Chapter

Chapter One

Men used to follow me. They did. Honest to God. Right up out of the subway like rats following the Pied Piper. I know you're looking at me and wondering, What the hell is she talking about? She's ordinary. She's overweight. She's old! She's panting as she climbs the subway steps. Fifty-four. Fifty-five. Fifty-six. How many steps does it take to kill a middle-aged woman? Okay. In this ivory coat, I know I look like a jar of mayonnaise. I saw myself in a store window yesterday. I glanced fetchingly into the window and thought, What the hell is that?

It wasn't always like this. In the early eighties, construction workers used to annoy me with obscenities.

"Hey, baby, those forty Ds ya got?"

In the early eighties, I could sit between two fat people on the subway and still have room on either side. In the early eighties, I was twice mistaken for Andrea Marcovicci. Remember her? No.

Okay. I know you're saying, "Time passes. We get older every single second. Get used to it." Believe me. I'm trying.

Rising from the subway, I view the world above, and sigh. Another Times Square morning. The neon signs blink on and off and on again. Except they're not neon anymore. They're TVs the size of the Parthenon. And diodes and readouts. The sky above Manhattan is that shade of blue pink that smells of New Jersey. And here I am, yet again, on my way to my job as an architect.

I have been toiling at architecture for twenty-three years now. And lately, it's as if I've been pricked and all the juices have run out. It's 1999, and the architecture portion of my psyche is beginning to resemble beef jerky. Dried and cured. Idesign chains of banks, chains of supermarkets, chains of dry cleaners. I find myself tellingmy friends , Well, I didn't really design that. Committee influence. You know." I have begun to think that if I ever was any good, I've lost touch with it. I worry that perhaps creativity is the exclusive domain of the young. (The majority of the people we hire these days were in diapers and banging their heads against the bars of their cribs in the early eighties.) Walking down Broadway, I try to refute the power of youth. Great geniuses in later life ... ummm ... (1) Georgia O'Keeffe; (2) Grandma Moses; (3) George Burns. There must be more ...

They were no longer juicy. Nobody followed them. And yet, look at the impact they made, so late in life! Georgia O'Keeffe. Have you ever seen a picture of her in her later years? She was beautiful. Beautiful as driftwood tossed for years in the surf. Character. She had character like nobody's business. And George Burns. He still made movies till the end. He still made people laugh, into his nineties, for God's sake. And Grandma Moses. Well, I don't know much about her. She became famous for painting like a child. Maybe she shouldn't count.

A mother with two young girls is passing me in the opposite direction on Broadway. Oh, yes. I recognize her. That was me too. It's only nine-forty-five A.M. and the girls, all blond and flyaway, are already sticky with purple lollipops. Their dark-haired mother looks haggard, worried, miserable. The girls are yanking her forward, their tongues and faces slathered with goofy grape. For one brief second, she catches my eye. The look she gives me is complex and affecting. On one hand, she is screeching for help; on the other, she is smiling lopsidedly. "How funny that I should be at the mercy of all this," her look says. "Me, Elise Farcus, once beautiful, once desired. These wonderful little girls. These sticky little lollipops. This is my life."

Ah yes. I recognize her. Come the late eighties that was me. A woman with small children. Too tired to care that my breasts were nominally still pointing upward. Too involved with my twin daughters to feel sexual when men smiled at me, which they did less and less. Daniel, their father, never seemed to.

In my twenties, I was desirable but insecure. In my thirties, I was covered with spit up or had toddler bags of Cheerios edging out my pockets, and living with a man who'd lost all interest in sex with me, let alone romance. In my forties, I'm free of all that: the toddlers are grown, the man is gone, but where the hell did my beauty go? On this ordinary morning, this strikes me as a cruel joke. I pull my ivory coat around me, cross Broadway to my office building, just avoiding getting run down by a bicycle messenger with a whistle and a yellow jacket. He is free, this bike messenger, and wild, and appears as though he doesn't care who he runs over. I, on the other hand, am an indentured servant. Indentured to my mortgage, my daughters' private school tuition.

I am about to walk up the steps to the plaza of my office building yet again, and then I stop. People pile up behind me, there in the middle of the sidewalk. I am shoved, cursed at. The crowd flows around me as if I were a rock in a stream. Still, I can't seem to move forward. It is a Thursday. An ordinary Thursday. Yet my office building looms like the monolith in 2001. Frightening, ominous. Must I go there? I have a bank drawing laid out on my computer likea patient on an operating table. But I simply can't move forward, or rather, I can't move forward up the stairs to Paramount Plaza.

"Lady. What the hell you doin'?"

"For Chrissake, move!"

It's rather exciting to be shouted at, to call attention to myself at all. But I can't go in. I really can't.

The Middle Ages. Copyright © by Jennie Fields. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2005

    Good read

    I enjoyed this book. It's a good and easy read, and I looked forward to what would happen next as I got more pulled into the book. The part that touched me, and at the same time annoyed me, is that the main character, Jane, was so vulnerable. Her low sense of self was validated by a terrible marriage and divorce, and subsequently stopped her life dead in its tracks until she was forced to make a change with the unexpected loss of her job. I found myself losing patience with her at times.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2005

    off to a slow start

    I read this book one day while I was bored at work. It was hard to keep interested but once I got to the end I finally couldn't put the book down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2010

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    Posted April 10, 2014

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