An ambitious and undisciplined exploration of female aging.
Debut author Kallierou-Xylas, who first published her book in her native Greek in 2004, tackles just about every aspect of aging a reader could name: sex, beauty, marriage, parenting, geriatric medicine and the fate of our immortal souls. At just over 250 pages, however, the book cedes little real estate to each topic. The information within each chapter is scattershot, as well. Some chapters rely heavily on passages from other writers—with paragraphs stacked as many as eight deep—without much analysis or original thought to connect them. Others list research studies plucked seemingly at random or quote interviews with anonymous women. The brief chapter on “Beautiful After 40”—a subject that could fill a book on its own—amounts to a list of well-known skin treatments. Younger members of the target audience, the ones who recently turned 40 or 50, may not recognize themselves in the picture Kallierou-Xylas paints. While “The Career Woman” gets a brief chapter, most of the book focuses on women who felt chained to children and domestic life before middle age either left them adrift or set them free. The educated 45-year-old with young children, a long work history, and a happy marriage will not see herself in this book. Likewise, the author’s conflation of the words “androgynous” and “lesbian” is both startling and confusing. Along with other minor missteps (“Mac Arthur Foundation,” “Berkley University,” and many others), this casts doubt on just how in touch she is with current research in her area.
This guide shoots for comprehensive but just hits superficial; it makes claims of optimism but can’t shake off the prevailing cultural negativity about aging.