One thought on Jenny Downham’s Unbecoming

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I’ve just finished reading Jenny Downham’s Unbecoming.

When I say reading I obviously mean listen to, because, at this point, if it wasn’t for Storytel and audiobooks I would be back in a reading slump.

And I have to say, Jenny is as pleasant to listen to as she is to read. Two books in and she’s definitely one of my favorite authors. This was a lovely little book.

Just like Before I Die, it’s on the sad side of the spectrum. Albeit in a different way.

I’d say nobody dies, but that’s not true. Let’s go with, none of the main characters die. It’s told from the perspective of three women, a daughter, a mother and a grandmother.

Each of them have their charm, but the grandmother is crafted with such care. In my opinion, Downham did a really good job describing what it’s like to grow old and forgetful to a point where life just crashes around you.

There’s one thing though.

The lack of feminist analysis.

One thing in particular sticks out to me. It’s just a detail. Tiny bit of the story.

The mother has some sort of personal crisis and basically runs away from her children and her husband. The husband calls the estranged (grand)mother to get help to care for the children.

The they haven’t spoken for years. Unlikely that the husband and the (grand)mother have spoken at all before.

What’s upsetting isn’t that it’s not realistic. It is. What’s upsetting is that no one in the book seems to consider this a problem. The problem is described as the mother and daughter not getting along, that they’re not on speaking terms. I mean suuure, that’s a problem too.

But why is it OK for a husband to call in his wife’s mother to care for his children? No comment on that? We’re just accepting it?

Imagine a mother behaving that way. For a minute. Imagine. Would it pass without comment?

This is so frustrating.

Anyway.

The wife/mother runs away to Spain. Which immediately makes me think of Bitter Bitch by Maria Sveland. Obviously.

Sarah, the main character in Sveland’s book, also leaves her kid and husband for Spain. However, it’s a planned escape, the husband is clued in, and it’s only a week. It would make sense to (re)read this book next. Because Sveland is all about feminist analysis.

Although. I really, really should get to reading Feminism by June Hannam already. Got it from the library weeks and weeks ago. And I can’t be relying on Valerie Bryson for feminist theory for all eternity. I need an update. But the actual reading with eyes, such a struggle right now.

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