THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ELDERLY WOMAN by Mary Heaton Vorse

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN ELDERLY WOMAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Originally published in 1911 as an anonymous autobiography, this novel by radical journalist Vorse (18741937) paints a convincing portrait of the pleasures, regrets, and grievances of a middle-class grandmother who fights daily to be her own person. Vorse was 37 when she penned the book ``in her mother's voice,'' creating a long-widowed narrator who has passed that ``golden moment'' in life when her children regarded her as their comrade and now finds herself treated much like a young child. She's subject to the gentle, caring tyrannies of her nearest and dearest, who take for granted their right to determine which activities are good for her (going for unwanted walks and for even more unwanted rides in the newfangled ``nasty, smelly, jouncing, child-grazing, dog-smashing, chicken-routing'' automobile) and which activities aren't good for her (light dusting or cleaning out the attic--although she would like to do both). We sense the narrator's shrewdness when, after a young visitor complains that ``there are no more real grandmothers,'' she exposes the selfishness underlying this ideal. And we appreciate her spirit when she says, ``I shall keep my family alert over my misdeeds until my end.'' Vorse, however, resists idealizing this grandmother--in fact, a discussion of the narrator's own mother depicts a woman who did a better job than she herself did of keeping her independence and managing her later years. Still, Vorse's narrator is wise enough to prompt Doris Grumbach, in the book's afterword, to hope that middle-aged readers can learn from the ``autobiography'' what it's like to be elderly and that the elderly can find company in it. A meandering yet purposeful work that reads, for good and bad, like the long monologue of an elderly, articulate relative. Untarnished by the years on its major points.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1995
ISBN: 0-916366-79-0
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Pushcart
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1995




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