Sunday, December 6

No! I Don't Want to Join a Bookclub - Virginia Ironsides

When she turns sixty Marie Sharp is ready to slow her life down - she's earned it. Well meaning people continually offer suggestions of things she might like to do, to fill her time and to keep her mind active, from book groups to adult learning courses. But Marie doesn't want to be young and stimulated anymore, and the idea of being compelled to "wade through Captain Corelli's Mandolin, or The God of Small Things, or, groan, The Bookseller of Kabul" makes her despair. She wants to shout at these people to stop denying their age and stage and embrace it instead. She's too old for new love, and too old to change.
But Marie's sixtieth year holds some changes for Marie regardless of what she wants. Her son becomes a father and she discovers the joy of grandparenthood, "pure and clear, unclouded" love and none of the worry and conflict of being a parent (though the prospect contains its own, unique worries). Her half-brother's beloved partner is in denial but undeniably sick, and Marie may not be as done with love as she thinks.
I enjoyed Marie's voice, and the many gems scattered through her journaling that made me tag one in five pages - I particularly though my mother, an anxious and loving granny herself, would find the passages on natigating grandmotherhood resonant. She has observations about aging and end-of-life that I agree with, and there are genuine moments of amusement. But I was very disappointed by the ending - she begins a new relationship, which undermined Marie's resolute stance from the beginning and turned her from being a determined woman who knew what she wanted into a somewhat feeble lady protesting that she doesn't want what she feared she wouldn't be able to have. Very disappointing, and coloured my feelings about the novel as a whole. - Alex

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