PRIVATE LIFE begins with a visit by an older couple to a Japanese interment camp in the US in 1942. I mean, honestly, I almost gave up on the book right then and there. There was a definite sense that the author was bravely revealing the scandal of Japanese internment during the Second World War. Which is odd, as it has been covered in literature many times before, almost always with the same air of great revelation, and even more irritatingly, of self-congratulatory moral courage. This is bizarre, as hands up who feels that it was okay to intern the Japanese? Anyone? Anyone? Didn't think so.
After the cheesetastic visit to the Japanese camp, we move back in time to see the old woman, Margaret, as a young woman in 1885. She is in danger of becoming an old maid, and is saved in the end by marriage to an eccentric astronomer. He is always rigidly polite to her, but it becomes clear over time that he is rather deluded in his scientific views, and immensely egotistical, expecting her whole life to be about serving his latest craze. I kept reading in the hopes that at some point a narrative arc would appear, in which Margaret gains courage and stands up to her husband. No such luck I am afraid. At one point, Margaret, speaking to her knitting club, saying
“There are so many things I should have dared before this.” And her tone was so bitter that the other ladies fell silent.Of course one wishes that this was about half way through the book, at which point she becomes a go-go dancer, and the the novel really kicks off. But no. In fact, this hopeless declaration is in fact the end of this boring and depressing novel. At one point Margaret has a brief affair, and astonishingly, even this illicit event manages to be both boring and depressing.
This isn't relevant, but I just have to mention that as I write this blog post the movie TERMINATOR SALVATION is playing in the background, and I feel impelled to ask the blogosphere: what is Christian Bale doing? He appears to believe that seriously great acting is underway. I find it weirdly embarrassing to watch, as if you came across someone posing in their bathroom mirror.