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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Familiar Passions by Nina Bawden

book cover of 

Familiar Passions

I seem to be going off track and reading books not on a scheduled list but when I get to something really good, I just cannot resist.

At the start you wonder what is wrong with our Bridie. A 37 year old married to a 50 odd man (his second marriage after a tragic death of his wife) she has been the submissive, never interfering wife, always giving in to James always thinking that he knows best. Underneath it all Bridie is slightly offended by all this but she never even dreams of never mind breaking free, of even speaking her mind. 

On their 13th wedding anniversary after a very nice celebratory dinner including champagne, James drops the bombshell that he wants them to live separately. Not "exactly" divorce but he is moving to Paris ( an office move), Bridie can live in the family home and he should be able to come and go as before (even with marital rights if possible!) but he wants to live alone.. James brings the proposals forward with all the finesse of an office project and presumes Bridie will fall in line with all he suggests.

Too taken aback Bridie is flummoxed but she thinks it over with no overt animosity to James and then walks out of the house. Taking nothing with her, she returns to her parents who welcome her back very warmly. They have never liked James who along with his Mother decided to even change her name to suit their own strange needs. 

The story of Bridie trying to make some sort of life for herself, coming to terms with her two step children who are also very supportive of her and her own daughter who is less so and how she takes it all in her stride, coming to terms with all that is happening around her is very matter of factly told! A coming of age story more or less of a situation which may be common but which in the protected circumstances of Bridie's life was a bombshell. 

The fact that Bridie is an adopted child who never thought of her adoption upto now is also part of her seeking out the truth about herself and coming to accept herself. Finding her birth mother very easily and the surprising news of who her father is, does not upset her even keel and she takes it in her stride as just part of all the changes in her life. 

The story is full of varied and interesting characters even the spineless James and his mother. Simple story nicely told.

Photograph courtesy of a friend. This is Wesak lanterns decorating a building in Colombo.


  1. I'm glad Bridie had the gumption to walk out after he made that suggestion. This sounds like a winner!