Title: Fear of Dying
Author: Erica Jong
Publishers: Canongate (29 October 2015)
Genre: Adult Fiction; Women’s Fiction
What’s it about?
This book is further evidence of Erica Jong’s courage in tackling personal politics through fiction. This poet and author of ‘Fear of Flying’ to ‘Fear of Fifty’ now tackles the issue of ageing and death and our very human reaction to fear of dying through the pursuit of sex.
Fear of Dying opens with an advertisement on Zipless.com – an internet sex site, by the protagonist, Vanessa Wonderman, which read in part,
“Happily married woman with extra erotic energy seeks happily married man to share same.”
Vanessa is a 60 year old woman exposed to deaths around her from the loss of her beloved father, to the process of losing her mother whom she admired and loved, to the shock of almost losing her husband. And her psychological response? To cling to life, to the symbol of life and vitality that is, sex – the “life force, the fire that goes from loins to navel, navel to heart, heart to brain”.
Vanessa is married to a man two decades older and impotent whom she loved yet found wanting, he met her needs yet she is unable to appreciate some of his ways, particularly the interference of his work.
Vanessa have always had the adoration of men, whom she in turn adored and flirted with and more. Ageing threatens her, as the first line in the book states, “I used to love the power I had over men” and later, “I hate, hate, hate getting older”.
Written in the first person, I encounter Vanessa’s mind in Fear of Dying as she experiences conflicted emotions and confusion. Vanessa does not profess to be the ‘good daughter’ or the ‘good mother’ or the ‘good wife’…quite the contrary. And it is the flawed aspects of Vanessa that makes this book entertaining and humorous. Her honesty is refreshing. It kept me turning the pages.
How does it end for Vanessa, the cynical somewhat jaded actor? You must discover this for yourself.
And if Fear of Dying is semiautobiographical then it is a testament that 60 year olds are still sexually passionate and not just in their minds.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, an intelligent and entertaining book that kept me wanting to know how it ends for Vanessa.
Realistic Characterization: 4/5
Made Me Think: 3.5/5
Overall enjoyment: 4/5
Overall Rating: 3.5/5
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