THE EDUCATION OF HARRIET HATFIELD by May Sarton

THE EDUCATION OF HARRIET HATFIELD

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The latest novel from poet/essayist/fiction-writer Sarton deals with many of the themes in her 1984 journal, At Seventy: aging; death of a (woman) lover; the need to "build bridges" in society rather than create a segregated gay culture; the joys of friendship, gardens, and pets. Harriet Hatfield lived with publisher Victoria Chilton for 30 years in upper-class Boston, sheltered from society's homophobia by money, power, and discretion. When Vicky dies, 60-year-old Harriet inherits the estate and, newly independent, decides to open a women's bookstore. She locates in a blue-collar suburb and soon receives a threatening letter. Harassment escalates after a newspaper report identifies her as a lesbian--but she holds her ground, the store becomes a center for all sorts of admirable women, and, after a crazed grandmother shoots Harriet's beloved dog, local sentiment turns in her favor. There is some charm and humor in Harriet (with her naivetÇ and upper-class respectability) being labeled a socially dangerous monster. But, alas, the tone of uplift is pronounced, and many readers will be perplexed and disturbed by the book's seeming endorsement of questionable conventional values: it's necessary to inform a husband where the wife he has battered is hiding; a gay man gets AIDS because of his "casual encounters" while his long-term lover (because he's been virtuous and faithful?) has no apparent concern over his own HIV status. Graceful writing, but Sarton's messages are sometimes too pointed, sometimes problematic.

Pub Date: June 12th, 1989
ISBN: 393-02695-7
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:




MORE BY MAY SARTON

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

IndieMOSAIC OF THE DARK by Lisa  Dordal
by Lisa Dordal