Shedding one’s sicknesses

Patrick Parrinder

  • The Injured Party by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
    Hamish Hamilton, 309 pp, £10.95, November 1986, ISBN 0 241 11946 4
  • Expensive Habits by Maureen Howard
    Viking, 268 pp, £9.95, October 1986, ISBN 0 670 81291 9

‘In the middle of the journey of this life, I found myself in a dark forest, where the straight way was lost.’ The theme of mid-life crisis has inspired a number of great novels – Little Dorrit, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and perhaps Ulysses – although the majority of fictional heroes and heroines are conspicuously youthful. Traditionally, as the novelists themselves grew older, they continued to write about the young. In the later 20th century, it seems, this is no longer the case. Perhaps it is because the novel is becoming more uninhibitedly autobiographical that there is a thinning-out of conventional stories about the spiritual and material hungers of adolescence. The serious novel today is more likely to centre on a mid-life crisis than on the young man up from the provinces, or the young woman affronting her destiny.

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