Wednesday, September 22, 2010

In the Deep Midwinter: a novel in the flavor of Mad Men

In the Deep Midwinter: A NovelIn the Deep Midwinter: A Novel by Robert Clark

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novel takes place in 1949 and 1950, and it's truly in another full of cigarettes, old-fashioned gender roles, cocktail parties, and distance between lovers and family members.

The story opens with Richard going to claim the body of his brother, who died in a hunting accident. He discovers how little he knew his brother, and he also realizes how little he knows his own wife, Sarah. His divorcee daughter, Anna, is in the midst of an affair with a deeply flawed man, Charles, in the midst of his own divorce.

What is notable about this book is that it describes, in agonizing detail, an illegal abortion. The author does an excellent job of painting the difficult circumstances that led to the abortion and making me feel ever more committed to protecting a woman's right to choose. He does not gloss over the pain and anguish Anna feels, and he also does not demonize her.

The characters are not necessarily likable--they are each flawed--but they do not relate to each other very well. I'm not sure if this is meant to be reflective of the era, or if it's just this particular gathering of people. For example, as their daughter lies in a hospital on her deathbed, her parents go home that evening and carry on as if nothing was happening. They do not discuss their feelings. Anna's son stays with a housekeeper the entire two weeks she is in the hospital, and it doesn't seem to occur to the grandparents to take care of the child. When Richard and Anna finally discuss what has happened and express their feelings to each other, it is a huge relief to both of them to finally be able to let it out.

It was a well-crafted, well-written book. I'm giving it three stars because I'm not sure how much I will remember it beyond the descriptive illegal abortion plot detail. I'd be curious to hear what others think of the story.

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