The Education of Harriet Hatfield
by May Sarton
Copyright Year: 1989
Publisher: W W Norton
No. of Pages: 320
No. In Series:
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From Publishers Weekly Sarton’s 19th novel echoes many earlier themes: the comfort of friendship; relationships between women; the precarious balance between union and solitude, the bond between people and their pets, and what it means to live an elegant life and achieve an elegant death. After the death of her companion of 30 years, 60-year-old Harriet Hatfield opens a bookstore for women in a changing, predominantly blue-collar neighborhood near Boston. Following a newspaper article in which she is labeled a lesbian, a word that very ladylike Harriet has never thought to use, she becomes the target of threats and abuse from an unknown assailant. As Harriet moves from the well-ordered life of a sheltered companion into the rougher, wider world, she begins to redefine herself. Sarton uses the bookstore as a backdrop against which to paint a series of predictable thumbnail sketches of women, but these portraits are pale and thin. Although there is a clarity to her unadorned prose, the richness of varied voices does not come through and emotions are many times too carefully circumscribed. Sarton’s mainstream, ‘proper’ heroine counterbalances gay stereotypes, but the focus on issue rather than character diminishes the novel’s impact. Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. From Library Journal Sarton’s fans will welcome her 19th novel and another of her dignified older women who prevail. Released from a confining lesbian relationship by the death of her lover, Harriet at 60 fulfills her dream of opening a bookstore for women in a Boston working-class neighborhood. Vandalism and threats lead to a news article that forces Harriet to re-evaluate her life and face its impact on others. Though Sarton’s style is flabbier than usual and her writing loses credibility when she attempts to deal with all aspects of homosexuality, homophobia, and women’s issues, this is still a gentle and readable novel. Given Sarton’s popularity, public libraries will want it. – Elizabeth Guiney Sandvick, North Hennepin Community Coll. , Minneapolis Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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