Friday, June 17, 2011
Summer Reading List: Diary of a Mad Housewife
Next on our Summer Reading list is Diary of a Mad Housewife: A Novel by Sue Kaufman. I enjoyed and disliked this book at the same time. Here is a little synopsis:
"Tina records in her diary the conditions of her everyday life as a housewife in New York City, with her nagging, climber of a husband Jonathan, and her two girls, aged nine and seven, who so completely take after him that Tina hardly recognizes them as her own. They live in a cavernous apartment on Central Park West that she can barely keep in order. As a form of therapy, Tina begins a secret diary. The self-awareness she gains propels her into a new set of experiences, most notably, an extra-marital affair. She discovers that this man is as hateful as her husband, but she has good sex for the first time since her early married days, and it gets her out of the house one afternoon a week. This sophisticated, entertaining novel casts a cool eye on middle-class mores, the so-called liberation of the 1960s, and the coping mechanisms that often failed the large majority of women who saw themselves and were seen as housewives." from Amazon
Kaufman's novel came out as the Feminist Movement was getting underway and supposedly "hit a nerve". Can you imagine living then? How confusing it must have been. You might THINK you are happy being a homemaker, mother, and in the feminine sphere of the home...but here are these authors, commentators, etc saying you are not supposed to be happy with JUST that. Well first of all...you should never be JUST that. I think you should diversify. Get a few hobbies, community involvement, your own interests....no need to be JUST one thing, now matter what that may be. What you "do" should not be the definition of "who you are". Of course it is a part of you but not all there is, right? I love being a homemaker, creating a comfortable environment for my hubbie to come home to. But there is more to me than that.....with all my multiple personalities...there is LOTS more. LOL. I think this was Bettina's downfall. She really did not have anything of her OWN going on. She supervised the household, the maid, the cooks and catering, the babysitters and after school activities, the wall washers (really? Someone came in to wash her walls?)...she really did not do the housework herself, even. She was bored...and depressed.
The title, "Diary of a Mad Housewife", can go a few ways. "Mad" can mean CRAZY, it can mean ANGRY, but in my thoughts, with Bettina, it means SAD....DEPRESSED. Depression can cause havoc on a gal. SO besides boredom, why else should Bettina be depressed?
The most obvious is Johnathan, her husband. A husband should be one who is there for companionship, love, and support. Of course Johnathan was there for financial support, but that is because he HAD to be as the provider and because he is VERY concerned with what others SEE. What he was not there for was emotional support. He was mean, angry, rude, just a plain grade A JERK. "Jonathan makes it all too clear, as the diary reflects, that he is working to mold Bettina as the perfect wife, hostess, and mother. He earns the money and doles it out to her; he runs her life" from enotes.
Johnathan is a bad character. Social climber without the social skills or class needed to actually get to that top wrung. He has a bit of new money, so the "right" people may use him a bit to get their plays produced, art shown, etc etc...but they do not necessarily LIKE him. They use him and he can not see this...but Bettina can and that causes her to lose respect. When you can not respect your spouse, that is good way to become depressed with your marriage. So much more to say about this louse but I, as usual, do not want to give too much away....
Betinna is a mother of 2 young girls, nine and seven. At one point she realised they are so much like their father that she can not imagine them as her own. Now I am not a mother....but how sad is that? Here are two beautiful children that you are raising, that came from your body, and yet you feel no connection with them. Since they are so much like Johnathan, you can imagine how bratty they are. The smart things that come from their mouths. UHG. I have known some bratty kids in my days, but they have been just everyday normal bratty. The things these children say to their mother are way beyond their young years...so they are obviously mimicking someone else's behavior (JOHNATHAN?).
Ok, I think I have given you enough to make the decision if you want to read this novel. It is a short read and gives enough skin crawling thought to keep you interested. I hope you do read this...you will read about these gross characters as well as quiet a few others, adultery, lavish drunkenness, New York upper middle class entertaining...etc etc. And it all takes place in the mid 1960's. It gave me such thought of gratitude that I have a supportive and loving husband. Also, I am grateful to live in a time that I have the freedom to choose what I want to be, thanks to the Feminist Movement, I am sure...but sometimes I wonder if that had to of occurred for my choices? My Grandmother (who I call "Mawma", Margaret) was my age before this movement and seemed to have choices. I knew women from the Assisted Living community that lived before the movement and had choices....so while it did help, some were fortunate to have the encouragement and freedom to be who they wanted. Well that is another post waiting to be thought out...LOL.
There are many other thoughts I have about this book but I just wanted to give a brief review and recommend it for y'all to read. I really do not like giving the ending of something away and I am always afraid I may do this with my thoughts and reports.
By the way...there was a movie, as well. I read that it was never released on DVD but you might can snag a VHS copy on Amazon or eBay for a pretty penny. I would love to see the film and will be looking for it.
Also, I have not found another copy of this to give a way, unfortunately. They do have it on Amazon, however.