Rebecca Miller - The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (3 stars)

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Rebecca Miller - The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

(Canongate)

SOCIAL DRAMA

At first, a novel about the awakening of a woman who has spent her life subjugated to a famous, powerful man seems almost quaintly anachronistic in today’s heady post-feminist climate. But then you remember that the novelist herself is continually referred to in terms of her famous husband and even more famous father.

Rebecca Miller’s model here seems to be early Margaret Atwood, especially when her heroine’s feral adolescent consciousness resurfaces, dissolving the deliberately staid master narrative into flickering, sex-steeped memories of pills popped and lovers taken. A portrait emerges of a woman who only understands herself in bondage – filial, sexual, marital, maternal – and these tangled, fiercely erotic realisations are executed with force and linguistic fizz.

However, we have to return to our scheduled mid-life crisis – complete with conveniently mysterious younger love interest – and Miller’s rather heavy-handed storytelling towards the end dampens down Pippa Lee’s early promise as vigorously as the husband who ‘tamed’ her.

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