The Girl Pretending To Read Rilke

The Girl Pretending To Read Rilke

by Barbara Riddle


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The Girl Pretending to Read Rilke is a coming-of-age novel set in a biology lab in the summer of 1963 in Boston. Both the heroine, 19-year-old Bronwen, and America are suffering growing pains and soon all the standards of the past will be shattered as the Pill and the war in Vietnam change people's expectations forever. A shocking telegram forces Bronwen to choose between family and the temptations of a dazzling future in science.

"Barbara Riddle has given us a sharp, funny glimpse into a little-explored moment in women's recent history. The year is 1963, the same year Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. Brave young women were heading out from college and looking for lives very different from those their mothers had lived. My excitement about The Girl Pretending to Read Rilke stems in part from the fact that I was there- heading for graduate school in science in 1963. I recognize Riddle's heroine Bronwen for her spirit of adventure as well as her sometimes crippling self-doubts (carefully nourished by the all-too-realistic boyfriend-from-hell). Today's 20-somethings will recognize her as a woman struggling, like themselves, for personal coherence in a world that still has difficulty seeing us as complete and entire human beings." -Barbara Ehrenreich (author, Nickel and Dimed)

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780615904320
Publisher: Pilgrim's Lane Press
Publication date: 10/13/2013
Pages: 212
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.48(d)

About the Author

Barbara Riddle received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Brandeis, but in the process of writing her coming-of-age novel "The Girl Pretending to Read Rilke," she became committed to writing as her true vocation.
Her passion is helping young women to develop self-confidence and meet all challenges with humor and resilience. A native of New York City, she is currently at work on a memoir of growing up as the child of free-spirited bohemian parents in 1950's Greenwich Village, as well as being involved in the development of "Girl Pretending to Read Rilke" into an independent feature film in the style of "An Education." She divides her time between New York City, St. Petersburg, Florida and her extended family in Sweden. Her daughter Laramie is a filmmaker in Los Angeles and her stepdaughter Simona is a writer in Stockholm.
Among her favorite auhtors she lists Jean Rhys, Katherine Mansfield, Nadine Gordiimer, Amy Hempel, Carson McCullers, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, Truman Capote and Ivan Klima. She blogs at and her website is You can write to her at with your comments or questions. She loves to hear from her readers.

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Girl Pretending to Read Rilke 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't often read a book about pretentiousness, so I really enjoyed this unusual theme. In addition to pretending to read Rilke, the main character, Bronwen, exemplified the beginning of the women's movement in the 60's. She pursued a man's career--science---working hard at a university lab summer job while struggling with relationships with several men. The experiences of Bronwen and other minor women characters in this novel bring home the struggles and conflicts of the times. Though I was a decade younger than the characters, times were still tough as a woman pursuing another man's career---architecture. Young women I now work with don't believe me when I tell them I wasn't even allowed to take high school drafting and architecture classes. My mother had to put up a big fuss, and I was the only girl in the classes. This book also covered Bronwen's strained and sad relationships with her parents, less a product of her independence and feminism than a result of the parents' fears and disappointments. There were engaging descriptions of things I usually don't stop to think about, like selecting jeans at the surplus store, going to Dunkin Donuts, and the physical sensations of getting drunk for the first time. My only complaint is it was just too short! I wanted to read more. And I wanted to invite Bronwen out for lunch--some girlfriends 'or maybe a consciousness-raising support group' would certainly have helped with her struggles.
Guest More than 1 year ago
-Barbara Riddle's novel, 'The Girl Pretending to Read Rilke' is set during the summer of 1963 in Portland,Oregon, New York City and the academic hotspots of Waltham & Cambridge, Massachusetts. The characters in this novel are coming-of-age during the escalation of the war in Vietnam and the expansion of the civil rights movement, during the beginning of the age of Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. The popular music of the time, referred to by her characters, expresses their emotional conflicts about being in academia while the world is in such turmoil. The novel's central theme is the coming-of-age story of Bronwen, a nineteen-year old college junior who is entering into a summer internship at a genetics research lab at a time when the role of women in the professional world was beginning to change from what it had been for previous generations. Two of the colleges that are part of the setting of the plot of her novel, although given fictional names, are most likely Reed College in Portland, Oregon and Brandeis University in Waltham. There are some amusing and revealing glimpses of undergraduate life during the '60s, including a drug trip scene involving the protégées of a Harvard professor who can only be Timothy Leary. There is also a darkly funny reverse Annie Hall scene in which the WASP-y Bronwen has dinner with the Lefty-intellectual parents of her Jewish boyfriend Eric, and she completely disgraces herself by feigning familiarity with the story of Sacco & Vanzetti. While the theme of the coming-of age story is in many ways timeless, I particularly enjoyed reading this novel because the story of the main character in Barbara's novel portrays an image of the early 1960's that even those of us who came of age in the 80's and the 90's can relate to. Becoming independent from parents and mentors and choosing one's own path is an individual task that every human being must wrestle with. And, as a man in his mid-30's with many female friends who are pursuing professional careers, it is clear to me that a lot has changed for the better, but that perhaps some of the issues Barbara Riddle deals with are still ones that every young woman must solve for herself. Hopefully, society is making it a bit easier.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the opening sentence I knew Bronwyn, knew she was 'everywoman' though a totally unique character. I was unfamiliar with the world of a research scientist, but the author made me feel at home in the laboratory. The scenes from her childhood growing up in the village made me see, hear and remember my own childhood, different, but the same.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Didn't want to put it down until I had read it through! Great characters - some you want to shake, and others you want to give a hug and buy them some shoes. Barbara captures a moment in time so that visitors of all ages can see themselves in it. A great read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a lovely book. Full of insight, humor and intelligence... about the trials of a bright young woman entering the almost entirely male scientific community of the l960's. As a woman in the sciences I can understand and empathise with Bronwyn's difficulties and triumphs. The book is centered on a pivotal, difficult and disturbing summer internship and Bronwyn's struggles and growth in both her personal and professional life. A sexy,funny, vulnerable and smart heroine who is very likeable.