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The author of two exuberantly praised novels, Annette Williams Jaffee returns with a wise and sensual tale about pursuing the one great passion of our lives, not in our youth, but at that last dangerous moment when everything we own and everyone we love is at risk. The Millers are the envy of all who know them, a 'successful' couple on the verge of the best years of their lives. Suzanne's first book is enjoying national attention while Barry can write his own ticket to teach at any law school in the country. But a spate of recent deaths and the absence of her children, away at college, force Suzanne to confront the fact that her marriage is cold and empty.
When Suzanne meets Robert Parrish, a silver-haired banker from East Texas with a talent for real friendship with a woman and an appetite for sensual pleasure-suppressed for years in his own straight-laced marriage-she must decide between the secure life she chose after the shameful ending of her first, youthful love affair or the disdain of her children, the loss of friends and the financial uncertainty awaiting a woman who uproots her life in pursuit of the true intimacy she has long denied herself. With rare insight, keen social satire and some of the most touchingly rendered erotic scenes in recent memory, The Dangerous Age is above all a story about seizing ecstasy in our livesregardless of age, in spite of the consequences.
"Set aside a block of uninterrupted time to read Jaffee's new novel... Her writing makes the reader feel everything, with the result being that this is a book that refuses to be put down. A touching and absorbing story that lingers long after the final page has been read; highly recommended."-Library Journal (starred review)
"The pages turn themselves."-Los Angeles Times Book Review
"How glorious to give oneself up to a great late-in-life passion."-New York Times Book Review
Annette Williams Jaffee is the author of Adult Education (Leapfrog) and Recent History (Putnam). She lives on the Delaware River in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
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A bedroom in Paris; everything white: sheets, walls, a long ceramic dish of narcissus in bloom; there is the reflection of the moon on the river outside the windows with the shades half drawn, and the revelation of shadow, a medieval wall bleached by moonlight; a scented candle flickers on the mantel.
She sits and faces him, this man, almost a stranger. She sits on his bare thick thighs, straddles his thighs; his large strong hands divide her back with its bony trail, reach for places hidden from her; her face is in the crook of his shoulder, her mouth on his neck, her hands on the sides of his face. His scent is new, but familiar: citrus, vetiver. She will devour him, she will save him, she will worship him for giving this back to her.
A bedroom near Chicago; her husband's voice, abrupt, impatient: "Suzanne...?"
"Are you finished?"
"Did you come?"
"Oh, yes . . . yes, yes."
Barry rolled off and padded away; Suzanne touched her cheek, it was wet, she was crying. She was thinking about a man she had loved when she was twenty.
She had married at 21, gratefully, not entirely capriciously. She had known him all her life-their families were friendly, their paternal grandfathers were distant relations in that other, old world. Suzanne's was a classic tale: a dead mother, a frantic grieved father, a silly stepmother with two small children and needs of her own. In a fairy tale, she would have been sent out to forage her way with a heel of bread, outwitting birds and witches and monsters along the way until she met the Prince. Instead, it was a matter of finding a good school until that happened.
A hazy memory of Barry-he was a slender young man with a sparse new beard, shadowy, standing between his somber parents at her mother's funeral. That was important-he had known her mother! When she saw him again, she was in her freshman year at Wheaton and he was in law school. With the prodding of his mother, probably, he began to invite her out for coffee or a beer and a sandwich at the Wursthaus, a Sunday concert at the Gardner Museum. He stayed on to get an LL.D., waiting for Suzanne to grow up, as confident of his claim as the Prince watching Sleeping Beauty in her glass coffin through the brambles.
A week after her graduation, they married, the decision popular with everyone, a marriage as correct as that of the vicar's daughter in Jane Austen. She found a job in a small gallery on Newbury Street; she handled the museum prints: Chagall's flying lovers, Matisse's languid women, the horny minotaurs of Picasso's late middle age.
When Barry finished, they moved to Chicago where he took a job teaching Constitutional Law. The children were born there: Josh first; twenty months later, Amy. At twenty- four, everything that was expected of her was completed. From the beginning, she knew she had not married for love, although she did not think that would matter: she had married for security, for escape, for lack of plans, to get on with her life in the only way she knew. If she'd had a mother or an income or a room of her own. . . .
The summer between her junior and senior years she escaped long enough to take a job as a summer helper in Paris. She took courses at the Alliance Francaise four mornings a week and in the afternoon accompanied three small girls to the park.
In Paris, she learned the usual things: to eat dessert with both a fork and spoon, to eat snails, to tie a scarf a dozen ways, and make up her eyes with kohl. By the time they were supposed to leave for the country, she had fallen in love with the children's father, a smart charming man twenty years older than she who edited a prestigious medical journal. Alain Bertrand.
He had taken a room in the attic of a building on the Ile de la Cite. They met there several times a week in the early evenings. After giving her dinner-hence, the implement and eating instruction-and making love, he would return to the apartment in the Sixth, where he lived with his wife and those three little girls, and where Suzanne lived, too, except on those nights she slept alone on the Ile. The bed was under the windows and while they made love, if he placed her on top of him, something he liked very much-he told her this was the way the ancient Romans had made love- she could see the worn gargoyles and delicate buttresses of Notre Dame, lighted for the tourists. She watched the barges skim along the Seine. She was Jean Seberg and Audrey Hepburn; she had never felt so beautiful. She knew it was love that made her beautiful.
Madame always asked her how her date was the next morning, but by the time they were supposed to leave for Normandy, Madame knew-it had happened before. Suzanne was sent home early in shame. The first person she called was Barry. By the end of the summer, they were engaged.
Now, sitting in the pretty terraced garden in Berkeley, everything came flooding back. The names of the children appeared magically: Katel, Sophie, Claudine. Before, the only thing she remembered were their faces as they watched her silently packing her suitcases in the tiny bedroom off the kitchen. They had been ordered not to speak to her.
Now she knew what had she done, but then she was twenty years old and had been seduced and abandoned, like a heroine in a beloved novel by Hardy. Once home, she felt tremendous relief and gratitude to Barry. She would be faithful forever-a bad Hardy heroine trait. So she married eagerly: no fear of unleashed passion here.From Publishers Weekly:
In this short chronicle of midlife crisis and divorce, Jaffee (Recent History) tells what a quarter-century of marriage may do to a woman's love life and her self-esteem. Suzanne Miller, a Chicago feminist scholar and teacher of fairy tales, wakes up one morning with the feeling that "everything she had imagined was completed." Her marriage to a successful law professor and her two grown children provide little comfort. Moreover, several of her friends are divorced or dying, and she herself soon must undergo a hysterectomy. When she meets Robert Parrish?an athletic, older banker with three daughters and a chilly wife?Suzanne leaves her husband and buys a house in the country, which she shares with Robert. Sexual passion provides Suzanne's great awakening; she "becomes a woman." Yet her sudden emancipation feels like a put-on: she calls her boyfriend "Daddy" and lets him order for her in restaurants; he addresses her exclusively as "honey" and "baby," as if he has forgotten her name. Although the prose is careful and precise and Suzanne's predicament well rendered, the protagonist's self-critical yearning for lost childhood grows tedious and fails to give a fresh dimension to this familiar plot.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Book Description Leapfrog Press, 1999. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M0965457842