TOMATO TALK – A Book Like UsJanuary 5th, 2009 © by Susan Swartz
“The Great Man,” a novel by Kate Christensen, focuses on the life and death of a male artist who seemingly had it all and the three devoted but not altogether adoring women he leaves behind – his sister, his mistress and his wife.
These are women, now in their very senior years, who might have once been known as the women behind the men. The type of women who might have also been described … and dismissed…as “once brilliant” and “once passionate,” assuming that after a certain age, such qualities can only be a memory.
Not Christensen’s women in this 2007 novel. The male hero is fascinating enough as important eccentric New York artists go, but the women are even moreso – complicated, opinionated, difficult, lusty and boldly sexual.
The story is about unlikely friendships and late loves, one of those books that I like because the women defy the gray, regretful stereotype of older women. These are women we might all hope to be. Or grow into.
Consider the one who observes her former colleague and new lover. “He had piercing blue eyes that were now examining her with frank rapaciousness.”
And another who muses to a young friend: “Younger people always think they know what older people don’t know.”
Very New York, very arty.
Try it. And tell me what you’ve been reading that shows us like we are.