Review

Revenge of the Middle-aged Woman

by Elizabeth Buchan

Elizabeth Buchan's book REVENGE OF THE MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN is about the destruction and ultimate resurrection of a single life. At the start of the book, Rose Lloyd's life appears idyllic. Married to Nathan for twenty-five years, she has concurrently raised a son and a daughter, forged a career as a book critic and editor, and kept a beautiful home. Life is comfortable, easy and lovingly predictable. She feels blessed by the ease with which her days pass. Whether she is tending her garden or dining out with colleagues, Rose is grounded and at peace.

But then one day, forty-pushing-fifty Nathan comes home and announces out of the blue that he wants out of their comfortable, easy, predictable existence. He uses the oldest cliché in the book: he has found love, or at least lust, with a younger woman. And, ouch, the younger woman is a good friend of Rose's. As if this devastation is not enough, a waterfall of catastrophic events happens in quick succession, sending Rose over the edge. She loses her job, a beloved pet dies, a child marries while in another country and her mother becomes ill. Buchan hits every potential nerve, leaving readers raw from the emotional barrage.

Rose sinks to the greatest depths of depression, drinking too much, eating too little and sleeping too much. Buchan spends many pages expertly plumbing the recesses of a devastated psyche and, for anyone who has ever experienced such grand and vast loss, Rose's self-questioning, self-hatred and self-abuse will be all too familiar.

As low as Rose sinks, ultimately, REVENGE OF THE MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN is about resurrecting one's life from the unrecognizable heap of self that is left after loss --- and resurrect she does. Buchan never fails to write without great wit and Rose never loses sight of the irony of life. She rises a newer, sleeker model, armed with the knowledge that 1) she can carry on and 2) "it took so little to destroy someone." Poised by book's end to rekindle an old passion, Rose truly embodies the Spanish proverb "living well is the best revenge."

Thoroughly British, smart and witty, REVENGE OF THE MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN will have you crying and laughing as Rose roller-coasters through the dissolution of her marriage and an inspirational renewal.

Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on January 23, 2011

Revenge of the Middle-aged Woman
by Elizabeth Buchan

  • Publication Date: December 30, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
  • ISBN-10: 0142003727
  • ISBN-13: 9780142003725