The Ten-year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

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The Ten-year Nap by Meg Wolitzer

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: For a group a of four New York friends, the past ten years have been defined by marriage and motherhood. Educated to believe that they and their generation would conquer the world, they nonetheless left high-powered jobs to stay at home with their babies. What was intended to be a temporary time-out has turned into a decade and now the friends are forty.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-0099523482

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Amy couldn't remember the last time her husband Leo had gotten terribly excited by her. Jill could not understand why she did not really feel like much of a mother to her adopted daughter, Nadia. It had been four years, but still the quiet little girl that she and her husband, Donald, had 'rescued' from a Siberian orphanage seemed like a stranger to her. Roberta didn't seem to know how she had come to give up on her dream to be an artist, but somehow amidst her marriage, the children's craft projects and the part time work as a puppeteer, it had simply faded away until she could barely remember what it was like to hold a brush in her hands.

Karen found the murmuring dissatisfaction of her friends at odds with her views on life after marriage and motherhood. She loved being married to the mathematically gifted Wilson and was entirely fulfilled as mother to her twin sons but did that have anything to do with the fact that Wilson earned a huge salary and as a family, they did not want for anything? Or was it maybe because, unlike her friends, she had never lost her enthusiasm for the job that she did prior to having the twins and being uncommonly brilliant at statistical analysis, Karen would never have to worry about breaking herself back into the working world, gently… that is, if she ever wanted to?

The Ten Year Nap is as much an introspective look at the lives of the four women as it is a statement about how easy it is to be dissatisfied with your lot when you have so much to be grateful for. This does not, mercifully, go unnoticed by Amy, Jill, Roberta and Karen – they know only too well that their lives are plentiful – and so the dissection of their various existences, interspersed with anecdotes from the generation of women before them (mostly their mothers), who feel largely that their daughters only have a choice because of the sacrifices made by them earlier in their lives, makes for both a read that, occasionally, gets slightly bogged down by inertia but also undisputedly fascinating from the generational viewpoints.

A clever point of reference throughout the story is the question 'And What Do You Do?' and how the friends each feel when it is asked of them. I suppose, when you point that question at someone who has the choice of whether they have a salaried job or not, you are perhaps asking 'What did you used to do?'. Maybe you should expect the response to be 'Do you want to know what I actually do now? Or perhaps you want to know what I plan to do again one day?' It is certainly a subject that is central to the plot.

In any case, Wolitzer highlights the fact that, wherever you are and whatever your situation and however blessed you may be with your lot, the same rivalries – whether amongst the PTA crowd or your friends – the petty insecurities, extra-marital affairs and all of the things that make up a world, will still keep on keeping on. The one thing that binds these friends regardless of that, is their decision to leave their careers and dedicate their life (during that ten year period) to raising their families and as the wheel of the story turns, we will see each of these women struggle with the decisions they have made and come to a unique conclusion about their enduring identity.

I have to say that I enjoyed The Ten Year Nap hugely. My own circumstances aside (I'm a similar age and have just spent a little over 6 months out of work, though not by choice), I found myself relating to all of Wolitzer's characters in a way that made me think of them all as my friends and off the back of such a delightful reading experience, I have acquired The Position and The Wife, two of Wolitzer's earlier novels and which, if you stay tuned, I will shortly review and you can see if Wolitzer makes you want to go out and buy her entire back catalogue, as well.

I think, in terms of further reading, Stage by Stage by Jan Jones would be an ideal choice of novel, should The Ten Year Nap appeal to you. You should also take a look at The Taxi Queue by Janet Davey and similarly, though certainly not from a woman's perspective, you may enjoy The Women by T C Boyle or perhaps Have the Men Had Enough? by Margaret Forster, though with that one, you may find the subject matter takes a bit of a wander off course, and I should point out that it's in my recommendation for further reading for two reasons: one, given the link to generational issues and two, it's a blinking good read!

Lastly, but by no means least, we at Bookbag would very much like to thank the ladies and gentlemen at Vintage for sending this copy to Bookbag for review.

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