Magazine article The Spectator

A Round-Heeled Woman

Magazine article The Spectator

A Round-Heeled Woman

Article excerpt

Granny takes several trips A ROUND-HEELED WOMAN by Jane Juska Chatto, £10.99, pp. 272, ISBN 0701176938

Why, oh why, would a pleasant-looking, intelligent woman of 66, a retired English teacher with a grown-up son living in California, place an ad in the New York Review of Books announcing her age and inviting men to approach her for sex and then publish an account of the gruesome encounters that followed? A profound desire to be noticed as a writer seems a more likely answer than a need for erotic adventure; this is a book which takes the literature of exhibitionism to new heights.

Ostensibly, it was an Eric Rohmer film in which a woman of fortysomething advertises for a lover on behalf of a friend that gave Jane Juska her bright idea. However, her book - which is, on the whole, well-written as well as funny and brave - offers several other clues. Her sexagenarian frolics are interspersed with the story of her past, which was evidently not a lot of fun. She grew up in the mid-West, in a family strangled by emotional and sexual repression; she had a nasty experience at the age of six with the family handyman; she lost her virginity to a drunken oaf who vomited all over her; and she married a man she did not like because she was pregnant. 'I am, if you haven't already figured it out,' she writes, 'a cliche.' She specialises in being disarming.

After the University of Michigan she moved to Berkeley, California, where she brought up her son on her own and realised that she was a born teacher. She also absorbed the counter-culture of the 1960s and 70s, with mixed results: her son dropped out - her account of her failures as a mother is painfully honest - and she discovered the women's movement. …

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