A Notable Woman – the Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt
It somehow seems harsh to say that I didn’t really like this woman, after spending 600 pages with her, from her teenagerdom to her final ambulance ride at age 76… But I didn’t like her, particularly in her 20s and 30s. She was man-crazy and felt that women were incomplete without marriage. I had been expecting the sexual escapades of a strong single woman. Jean has affairs mainly with married men who treat her abominably. She’s dying to get married; her professed love of her independence and fantasized regrets at losing it seem lip-service, compared to the relentless drumbeat of longing, pining, cursing, wishing, hoping, for HIM to call. And so, she wants to get married; what of it? Does she DO anything to try to make that happen? Sleeping with a succession of married men doesn’t seem to be a very efficient route to that version of happiness.
She becomes more tolerable as she enters her 40s. (Maybe I am just more sympathetic to my own age group.) She opens a book shop, and finally I see a glimpse of that strong independent woman I had hoped to read about.
It was funny how she kept daring to dream that someday, someone would read her diaries – her exact wish has come true. But you’d think that if she really did have hopes for publication someday, she would have written herself up in a more flattering light, and done a better writing job in general – she actually WAS a professional, published author.
Why did I stick with it – well, she wasn’t hateful, just pathetic. I was also interested not just in reading a single woman’s life story, but about life in the 20th century United Kingdom, including the war years. Ultimately, I did nearly shed a tear at Jean’s death – I had spent a LOT of time with her by the end; and it was strange, abrupt, unfair-seeming, to have her carried off after her final entry, and declared dead some weeks later. “But that can’t be all,” one somehow feels… “She can’t be just… gone?” Like in real life. 😦