The Ten-Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

May 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

After seeing (and wishing I had been articulate enough to write) Meg Wolitzer’s now-famous piece in the New York Times a few weeks ago I tracked down a few of her books. She might just be my new favourite writer. First I read The Wife, which was pretty good but perhaps a little too much like a negative of a Philip Roth novel for my taste. Wolitzer was witty, intelligent and sharp, but the rage was a little wearying by the end. But The Ten-Year Nap, which I have just swallowed whole, is utterly fabulous. If you’re a woman or a man you should read it. If you’re a parent you should read it. If you work you should read it. If you don’t work you should read it. If you’ve ever had an ambition or a dream you should read it. If you’ve ever woken up and realised that the time for ambitions and dreams must have passed you by while you were Tweeting, while you were searching the employment ads for something similar to (but better paid than) your current and despised job, or even while you were washing meconium out of a handknitted baby blanket at three am, well, you should read it too. In fact, if you can read at all, you should read this book.

I’m not going to summarise the story, except to say that it centres around four mothers who have made various choices along the way, often without even knowing that they were making choices or at least that without understanding that making this choice meant closing off that other choice. What makes this novel so great, apart from the fact that every other line is so stingingly true that I’d turned down the corner of every page as a reminder before I was twenty pages in, is how gentle Wolitzer is to her characters. She’s friends with all of them—or almost all; even the ones she can’t bring herself to be friends with are still allowed to be the kind of people that someone would want to be friends with. It’s the kind of novel that skewers so many little details and secret emotions so wonderfully, so exactly, and yet with such human nuance, that for a while afterwards you wonder why anybody else bothers writing, and what on earth you could possibly read next. Dare I read another of her novels? What if I don’t like it as much?

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