The Beginning of The End (A Review of Anne Roiphe’s “Epilogue: A Memoir”)

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Usually I don’t blog my non-fiction work (especially if it’s up for publication). But I’m breaking that rule because I’m enjoying the copy & paste blog widget @ GoodReads. It’s a recently edited review. (I’m terrible about my own copy – a habit I intend to break thanks to a book I’m finally reading in its entirety.) So a few people may stumble upon it before I submit it to HarperCollins marketing. There were some server issues that prevented me from submitting two reviews yesterday, so I’m waiting for a resolution before resubmitting them. I’m also planning to start a literary review section on my zine The Lipstick Pages. It won’t be up and running until I catch up on a few more reviews (by the end of August?), but it’s happening!

A Memoir Epilogue: A Memoir by Anne Roiphe

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you’ve passed Anne Roiphe’s books on shelves at BookPeople and Borders like me (see Up the Sandbox! through Water from the Well…), you may already be familiar with descriptions of her feminist writings, which combine realism and romance. Roiphe is also a well-established memoir writer (1185 Park Avenue and Fruitful: A Real Mother) connecting with women readers for four decades. Her latest memoir, Epilogue, is true to her trademark duality, without detached factual research and fiction’s artifice. This is her life, after the end of a thirty-nine year relationship – the beginning of the end as the title implies.

Epilogue conflicts with the notion of the typical feminist memoir in that it admits what many diehard feminist writers won’t – that a longterm companionship with the opposite sex is not a weakness, but a strength. It relates a universal message: When we lose that closeness, that intimacy we’ve had for so long, we struggle, even with a network of family and friends who grieve with us. The reader is is carried along the widowed author’s natural grief and recovery process – indicated by the natural phases of the moon replacing numbered chapters and parts.

Roiphe’s memoir contains tersely profound prose that doesn’t offer a self help cure for grief and loneliness after the death of a loved one. It isn’t a golden god memoir about her life partner, an imperfect lover, husband, father, and psychoanalyst either. Epilogue is a personal account of life after a partner dies, and how we struggle for normalcy and companionship – which can often contradict the feminist notion of an independent woman. Roiphe asserts that despite our independence, we are social animals who need relationships in our lives. Not because they define who we are as women, but because we all need to connect – and thrive – as human beings.

The widowed septuagenarian author’s brusque prose and lack of dialogue between the real life characters may be a turn-off to younger readers. However, older readers (over thirty) who have experienced a personal loss of someone close may appreciate and relate to the text as a cathartic testament of a writer compelled to share her story.

Overall, Anne Roiphe’s Epilogue is a good read.

View all my reviews.


One thought on “The Beginning of The End (A Review of Anne Roiphe’s “Epilogue: A Memoir”)

  1. I am a recent widow myself and am looking forward to reading this book. I am disturbed, though, by the rather negative comparisons to Joan Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking that I have been reading in relationship to this book. Didion was very clearly writing about the first year following the death, and I have felt many of the same behaviors she spoke of and seen them displayed by my widowed friends. As someone just three weeks away from the first anniversary of my husband’s death I know I have changed, I know I am better. Nevertheless the grim grey scrim of loneliness is often present and swamping grief waves still overcome me. Didion performed a vital service for widows, she gave our pain a voice and our feelings of loss and helplessness validity. Roiphe obviously is looking more forward, but her book does not seem, as Didion’s, to be confined to descriptions of the first year of widowhood. So it seems unfair to lump both books together as handling the self-same feelings and issues. Incidentally, most books on loss and grief are AWFUL and people who have experienced such cataclysmic loss deserve better, Roiphe and Didion as accomplished writers are at least providing that.

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