Just in time for Valentine’s Day – these books both deal with women in their forties and fifties seemingly falling in love with horribly unsuitable (younger) men.
The Music Lesson by Katharine Weber
When forty-something librarian Patricia Dolan meets a distant Irish cousin, Mickey, she immediately falls in love with his youth, confidence and beauty. Their steamy, intense relationship takes a sinister turn when Mickey recruits Patricia, who has an art education and works at the Frick Museum, to help him steal a famous Dutch painting that belongs to the British queen. The novel is a diary of Patricia’s experiences as she waits for Mickey in an isolated Irish cottage with the purloined painting hidden in an upstairs cupboard. The pacing is as slow as life in an Irish village, which leaves plenty of time for Patricia to write about her life before Mickey, her feelings about their relationship and her reflections on art. The story has a melancholy tone and is laden with an air of defeat. Patricia is somewhat of a wet blanket character, but the friends she makes in Ireland are colorful and eccentric enough to keep readers engaged right up to the shocking, unexpected betrayal that ends the tale. I read this soon after finishing The Goldfinch and enjoyed its similar themes and subject matter.
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine
My book group discussed this novel at our January meeting. When Betty Weissmann’s husband leaves her for a younger colleague she moves with her two middle-aged daughters, Annie and Miranda, to a shabby house in Westport, CT that is generously provided by her extravagant Cousin Lou. Annie and Miranda have also run smack dab into financial, professional and personal setbacks so this decision to live together seems to solve many of their problems, though their temperaments severely conflict. As Betty prepares her divorce case (and becomes a Costco addict) and Annie tries to keep them financially afloat, Miranda falls crazy in love with a young actor named Kit who has a three-year-old son. This very funny book trots along at a brisk clip while the family struggles to find their footing in their strange, new (insolvent) existence. The characters are fully and charmingly drawn, though somewhat absurd, a trait I think Schine enjoys exposing. Resembling Barbara Pym’s work, the novel is a true social comedy on the surface, yet has an earnest and sad undertone. It is based rather loosely on Sense & Sensibility and my book group had fun discussing the similarities and differences in the two plots and appreciated the way Schine turns Austen’s ending on its head.
Do you have any favorite stories of love gone wrong?