Fig Tree, £12.99. Order for £11.69 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
Mutton, By India Knight
Tuesday 25 December 2012
“I don’t believe in aging,” wrote Virginia Woolf when she hit 50. “I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.” Clara Hutt, the peri-menopausal heroine of India Knight’s latest novel, favours a less philosophical approach.
For one thing, she’s not comfortable with the appearance of a trans-brow wrinkle, and she’s still in hock to biology – and in search of a mate: “It’s as crude and basic as that.”
Readers of Knight’s previous romantic comedies, My Life on a Plate and Comfort and Joy, will already be familiar with the dating and family complications of single mother and magazine writer Clara Hutt. Now fully installed in the second half of her life, Clara is alarmed to find herself going “oof” when she sinks into a chair and being ignored by young waiters.
Matters come to a head when newly divorced best friend Gaby returns from California and moves in with her. Gaby is no stranger to cosmetic intervention, but Clara’s not sure if she dares follow suit. And so begins her own midlife crisis and a struggle to straddle the dangerous sartorial divide between “tragic cougar” and “older hottie”.
In comparison with middle-aged male shag-quests, Knight’s novel is an admirably slim-line affair. And unlike fellow-columnist Jane Shilling’s recent elegiac account of life after 45, it won’t drive you to leap off the nearest bridge. Instead, Knight cheers us up with caustic observations and flashes of schoolgirl hilarity as her fictional alter ego valiantly resists her inclination to lie about in a “onesie eating cheese” and instead joins Gaby on a Big Night Out, kicking off with cocktails at Claridge’s.
Such a tale of Harley Street makeovers and matronly madness has all the makings of a Fay Weldon-esque morality tale. But Knight’s fiction has more in common with the Nora Ephron school of novelistic journalism. Nailing with wit and intelligence the demanding art of being a woman, Knight consoles and entertains with a slice of feminism-lite. Clara’s romantic star rises dramatically, but as ever in Knight’s universe, it’s a constellation of friends and family that bathes our heroine in the most flattering light of all.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 If you're not already angry about the migrant crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
- 2 David De Gea: Manchester United goalkeeper's £29m move to Real Madrid off - because paperwork 'not done in time'
- 3 Pansexual: What is it - and when did the term gain popularity?
- 4 A Chinese journalist has appeared on state television 'confessing' to causing the stock market chaos
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
X Factor hopeful Mason Noise: 'How is Cheryl Fernandez-Versini in the music business, let alone a judge on the show?'
Wes Craven dead: Why Johnny Depp owes his career to director’s 13-year-old daughter
Trevor Noah, Edinburgh Fringe review: New Daily Show host warms up in inspired style
VMAs 2015: You can already buy ‘Kanye West for president’ t-shirts
VMAs 2015: Taylor Swift and her buddy Kendrick Lamar clean-up at awards - full list of winners
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
UN investigating British Government over human rights abuses caused by IDS welfare reforms