In Penelope Mortimer’s most popular work, we read a semi-autobiographical account of one woman’s descent into what might be a postpartum depression, but then again, is probably more likely a sad commentary on the deplorable times when women had no audible voice. It explores the “problem that has no name” that has reared its ugly head for one wife and mother living in London (Betty Friedan wrote about this “feminine mystique” a year after this book was published).
Married four times with eight children, the unnamed woman’s difficulties come to a head during her marriage to Jake Armitage, a successful screenwriter. Theirs is a complicated relationship filled with tumult, infidelity, and the inevitable betrayals that chip away at the marital bond.
We meet the woman first on her psychiatrist’s couch, and throughout this tale, we see her confidences, her thoughts, her dreams, and sometimes her fantasies…and then, in the end, we see how Mrs. Armitage finally chooses to carve out some time for herself for contemplation and resolution.
A short and captivating tale, The Pumpkin Eater (New York Review Books Classics) is a chilling, yet sometimes humorous portrayal of marriage and family life. Five stars.