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Ex-Wife by Ursula Parrott
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Ex-Wife (1929)

by Ursula Parrott

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Patricia and Peter split up after Pat sleeps with his friend. They have what we would now call an open marriage, but in the end it’s only open for Peter. Pat still loves him and wants him back. Hard to understand why – he’s such an unpleasant man – but life is difficult without a husband and a failed marriage is the woman’s fault.

Pat moves in with another ex-wife, Lucia. Pat spends her nights dancing and drinking at night clubs and sleeping with men she doesn’t much like. Lucia classifies ex-wives into three groups: class one “go in for celibacy and business success”; class two says, “Love is over, there remains …adventuring about.”; class three marries again.

Both women have well-paid jobs but neither sees herself as a career woman. Lucia describes marriage as the only alternative to becoming in her forties “a worn-out, irritable female sitting around an advertising office shivering every time they hire a bright young copy-writer just out of college, and being distressingly polite to an advertising manager ten years younger than myself.” A woman has to marry while she still has her looks.

The book seems surprisingly modern. Pat goes to the gym in the morning before her work as an assistant advertising manager. She and Lucia chat about contraception, feminism, men and clothes. They’re witty, amusing and well-read.

I loved the descriptions of the clothes, the décor, the speakeasies and the dancers in the Harlem clubs. The story rockets along energetically and entertainingly, with one unfortunate slow-down for a bit of melodrama towards the end. It’s as though a piece of a different book were inserted, self-sacrificing, uplifting and completely out of character for our appealingly mercenary and superficial heroine.

An entertaining picture of the changing roles of women in the permissive, hedonistic twenties. ( )
  pamelad | Mar 16, 2009 |
Written in the 1920s, Ex-Wife is the first-person story of a young woman who sounds like a modern woman dealing with divorce, abortion, infidelity, one-night stands, and heartbreak. However, she does hold quite a few of the manners and habits associated with her era. Fascinating. This could be quite an eye-opener for those who think American women weren't sexually liberated until the Sixties. ( )
1 vote citygirl | Aug 15, 2007 |
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"Families - strangers who knew one well when one was a child."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0452262240, Paperback)

1929. The book begins: My husband left me four years ago. Why-I don't precisely understand, and never did. Nor, I suspect, does he. Nowadays, when the catastrophe that it seemed to be and its causes are matters equally inconsequential, I am increasingly disposed to the belief that he brought himself to the point of deserting me because I made such outrageous scenes at first mention of the possibility.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:57 -0400)

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