A mature writer who has revealed much of herself in poetry (The Ghostwriter, 2000, etc.) now, in sharp prose, tells more of her life’s story.
The daughter of a British village doctor, MacInnes summons up, as in any proper memoir, her father and mother, her boyfriends, her horse, and her little dog, too. In the days when young ladies went forth in hats and gloves, “fresh and green as a salad,” she went up to Oxford. During WWII, she served as a WREN driver. Then she joined the circle of bright young things around poet John Wain, about whom we learn a good deal, not omitting the condition of his fistula. After the war, she moved with new husband John McCormick and his son to Berlin, whose residents had changed little since Isherwood’s time. From Berlin, they emigrated to New York and after a while to Mexico City, where McCormick pursued his academic career and added to his interests a devotion to the manly art of confrontation with brave bulls. Then he took a post in New Jersey while sending his growing family to Maine. Just as MacInnes grew to appreciate the attractions of the Pine Tree State, her husband moved them to New Jersey, where she taught in the local community college. It’s quickly obvious that McCormick was no homebody, more clueless Agamemnon than thoughtful husband, gone frequently and for protracted periods. Indeed, until the final pages, there is scant evidence of uxorious regard in his relationship with his understanding spouse. And a person of considerable understanding and insight MacInnes certainly appears, at least in her own account, taking pleasure in her three children and whatever is natural. Her outlook is always feminine, rarely rigorously feminist, though the title of her signature poem, “I Object, Said the Object,” is revealing.
Cosmopolitan and decorous throughout, selective as it should be, and written with engaging style.