Monday, February 11, 2008

Love, Again by Doris Lessing

Love, Again is about a good looking, very attractive theatre personality, Sarah who falls in love after a gap of twenty years when she is sixty. And the agony she suffers from the indignity of the whole thing. Because Sarah has been a cool, collected character busy with the business of living after her husband died. With no time for such indulgences as love. And now, at this time of her life, though she admits her figure can give younger girls a run, she still can’t compete with them for the attentions of a younger man. And it hurts.
But a number of people are in love with her. As she says, she is one of those women who always has had someone in love with her. People generally like her.

It’s a significant time for Sarah when life is changing on many fronts. The band of 4 which has worked hard to keep their little theater going find themselves with a major hit on their hands. One can envy the unspoken understanding they enjoy among themselves. They have to bring in new, younger people to help, have to share and then eventually give way to the young Turks. She relinquishes responsibility and support of her niece Joyce, who is a difficult child and whom Sarah has always taken care of. And her family finds that hard to accept.

Her company is putting on a new romantic musical play Julie . Both the play and Julie Vairon are very important in the book. Because a lot of it is about how the play is put on and performed, the machinery and the people behind it.

All the people involved are in love. Sometimes the love maybe reciprocated or it can be on one side only. How quickly affections move from one person to another forms part of it. The masks, the agonies, the little incidents, the constant thinking of the other person. Love Again is a fierce and compelling an examination of the nature of and its origins of love, of its remorseless ability to overwhelm and surprise us. – says the blurb and it is.

At first it was of course reading Lessing because she won a Nobel. Then it was the happiness of the discovery of a new wonderful author I liked. Then it got a bit tedious. But what kept me going were the insights that Lessing has on every page, at every turn into human life and human heart. All the subtleties that we do and think and haven’t thought of are recorded so we can recognise life again and again.

‘You say that as if you knew all about jealousy.’
‘Did I? I remember saying to myself, that’s it never again. I’ll never feel jealousy again. ‘
‘So you were generous too?’
‘If you want to make it generosity. I thought of it as self-preservation. I know one thing, you can kill yourself with jealousy.
I could never say it couldn’t affect a marriage or anything else. It was a question of pride.’
‘You are talking like the kind of woman you seem determined not to be- to seem to be.’
‘What kind of woman?’
‘A love woman. A woman who takes her stance on love.’

‘A mature woman knows that if her husband chooses to fancy the chemist’s wife or the girl who is driving the express delivery cart, and fucks them in her stead, well, its just one of those things.’
‘And vice versa, I think the husband knows that he is holding in his arms the stable boy, because his wife is?’

Sarah waited for a signal or glance that recognizes a situation. And it came: Elizabeth shone that smile on them both that says – in this case with good humored irony- I know what is going on and I don’t mind before going off on her own affairs. There are not many spouses, or partners, strong-minded enough to forgo that look, that smile, or laugh for it makes a claim, and an even stronger one than jealousy or anger.

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