SMALL CHANGES by Marge Piercy


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The author of Dance the Eagle to Sleep so obviously sets out to write the definitive women's liberation novel that many readers will doubtless quit in semi-justified disgust (somewhere in the first several hundred pages of meticulously detailed tidbits from the early lives of the initially tedious characters) before this turns out to be a much better book than one would have any right to expect. The actions are domestic and unheroic (growths and declines of relationships, widening and closing of intellectual horizons, slow raisings of political consciousness); the protagonists miraculously metamorphasize from stock Cambridge drop-outs and hangers-on to autonomous credible creatures (albeit ones given to speech-making) in retrospect fulfilling destinies that are sometimes predictable, sometimes not. Ironically, it is the marriage or male-oppressed Beth and Dorine who (surely out of self-defense from their snotty macho intellectual pals) form the ladies' commune that gives them breathing space to evolve lives liberated from the daily sex war (either with women or non-oppressive men), while it is the sexually aggressive, self-confident, brilliant computer expert Miriam who becomes caught in the domestic slough of babies, fading intellect and looks, unfaithful husband -- an almost tragic lesson that out of weakness comes strength, and out of strength complacency? This is a necessarily long book, covering small changes over fairly extended periods of time, a full survey of the Boston political communal scene, and more than occasionally dull -- for the writing is solid journeyman type -- neither brilliant nor transcendent, but a rather apt vehicle for its message that nothing comes easy: a novel whose whole (most rare occurrence) is ever so much better than its parts.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1973
ISBN: 0449000931
Publisher: Doubleday