Monday, November 26, 2012

The Bleeding Heart

1980, 1981 Ballantine edition
Marilyn French
The Bleeding Heart
Original price $3.95, purchase price $2.50
Worn paperback

French's second novel is less wide-sweeping than The Women's Room, mostly concentrating on its main couple of Dolores and Victor.  (She's still symbolically naming characters.  Mira's husband was named Norm.)  Yet it's not just the story of their year-long affair but also that of the Battle of the Sexes.  As in Women's Room, the lives of the main characters and those of their friends are filled with tragedy, and it can be over the top at times.  I think French does make some points about the impact of sexism on love, and vice versa, and there was more I could relate to here, but it's too overwrought at times.  Also, there's a moment when the bleeding-heart heroine makes a gratuitously racist comment in passing, about her daughter's friend having "Asiatic blood," that makes no sense narratively or biologically.

I do appreciate French attempting to humanize Victor, although I didn't quite believe in him.  There are moments when he's like an 18th-century male lead, out of Fanny Burney's fiction let's say, plausible enough for the author's purposes but not as realistic as, well, a Jane Austen hero.  So far, Margaret Atwood's male characters, both the stodgy ones and the crazy ones, and Doris Lessing's domineering but insecure men, are the most believable in post-World-War-II women's fiction.

And, yes, yes, welcome to the 1980s!  The years of my adolescence, and therefore the years of a lot of book-buying.

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