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My Friend Says It's Bullet-Proof by Penelope…
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My Friend Says It's Bullet-Proof (1968)

by Penelope Mortimer

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Muriel Rowbridge, is the only woman in a group of journalists on a cultural visit to Canada. She is single, in her late 20s, and recovering from a mastectomy and a relationship that failed shortly after (or as a result of?) her surgery. Immersed in the masculine social norms of her business trip, she spends a lot of time in her own head, trying to sort out what she wants from life. In the course of the trip she is attracted to two very different men: Robert, a wealthy businessman, and Alex, a film-maker. Both encounters proceed quickly towards sexual intimacy, and Muriel fears the consequences of revealing her prosthetic breast. The two relationships move along very different paths, and each in their own way help Muriel rebuild her self-image and become a sexual being again.

This novel, published in 1967, struck me as ground-breaking in many ways. Muriel is a single, independent woman holding her own against men in her field. But perhaps more importantly, Penelope Mortimer deals openly with breast cancer and its impact on a woman's sexuality. This is a worthy and memorable book. ( )
2 vote lauralkeet | Feb 8, 2015 |
I'm so glad that this lovely green VMC, moved from shelf to shelf for some 15+ years, caught my eye. It's solid middle-brow, which is pretty much where mine stays. Muriel Rowbridge, a journalist for a woman's magazine 5 months after her single mastectomy, flies from England to Canada with a group of male journalists. Muriel has been instructed to enjoy herself, become involved in the group, and not (in her own mind) to drift away Virginia Woolfishly. She writes in her journal a lot as she becomes more or less involved with two men: one with whom she has sex and one with whom she falls in love.
Mortimer is a beautiful writer. Muriel's musings are her consciousness stream, revealing her continuing confusion, anger, and hurt but also often very funny commentary. The humor brings the 60s back to me immediately, and I still think it's funny. Prime example: Muriel is whisked away for "'a little get-together with some of the girls from our top women's journals...they are, of course, just fascinated to meet a real working press woman like themselves, with the same problems and the same, well, background. They're all college girls, of course - I expect you're a college girl yourself, Muriel?'
She nodded, dumb. Words started going through her brain like a tune: Lord support us all the day long of this troublous life till the shadows lengthen and the evening comes..." Muriel, wisely, flees.
A controlling motif is the fable of the scorpion and the frog, and Muriel does remain herself to the end. Recommended! (And SHORT!!) ( )
1 vote LizzieD | Dec 29, 2014 |
A very unusual book. You get the feeling of being in a flashback to so many things - the 1960s, feminism, finding oneself, the dreary, vacuous hotels and strippers in nightclubs, psycho-something films, and the revolving door of feelings being explored again and again. ( )
  annejacinta | Jun 22, 2014 |
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The blonde stewardess was demonstrating the use of a life-jacket.
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A group of journalists are in Canada for an expenses-paid cultural spree. Muriel Rowbridge is the only woman of the contingent and for her the trip has a different flavour: it is her first assignment since having a breast removed five months earlier and, amidst this male bravado, she feels vulnerable and exposed. As a fashion and beauty correspondent Muriel knows women's indoctrination well--she feeds it to them and has swallowed it whole. What she doesn't know is how to come to terms with her changed body, the fears this unleashes about relationships, and her perception of herself as a woman. Compassionate, unsettling and beautifully constructed, My Friend Says It's Bullet-Proof is a unique and memorable account of one women's private reckoning--a journey through anger and grief to an affirmation of her new self and her own sexuality.--from the back cover
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