The Older Woman in Recent Fiction by Zoe Brennan has all the indicia of a dissertation turned into a book that it took the author at least a decade to get published – it was published in 2005 but the references are all to books and articles published at least a decade earlier.
It is one of those books that makes me sad because it could have been brilliant. This is a topic that deserves attention. Her thesis is that older women are portrayed almost exclusively in negative terms whereas most ageing women have found ways to live their lives with hope and satisfaction. Unfortunately she was writing for the academic community and the text is full of jargon: valorizing this or that, dominant discourses, privileges as a transitive verb, paradigm, and a mention of Foucault every six pages like clockwork. It’s dated with its references to feminist and Marxist interpretations that are no longer in vogue.
I was particularly interested in it because of Brennan's chapter called The Contented and Developing Older Woman in which she discusses “Single Women and Contentment in Some Tame Gazelle.” I'm interested in Barbara Pym as my Trollope group is reading her novels and because I've just re-read Some Tame Gazelle for the secoond time in six months.
Brennan quotes from a book by Michael Cottsell, who “captures the tone of her [Pym's] writing when he states that: ‘meaning must be sustained amongst us by good humour, a delight in the absurd, recurrent small gestures, taking an interest, loving anyway. Life delivers disappointments but if those disappointments are accepted . . . small joys and satisfaction await us.’ ”
I think Brennan’s position on Pym can be summed up in her phrase, “the dignity of the quotidian.”
2012 No 117