Review: The Life Room

I was an art student my first years at University so this book was familiar to me – the idea of the life room, revisiting history and sometimes rewriting history (why does our memory do this to us?).

The Life Room is the story a woman traveling to Paris to present a paper on Anna Karenina; while in Paris she runs into an old friend and history resurfaces (see synopsis below). She starts to revisit memories of her youth and the impact past decisions have made on her life today.

When she returns home, to her husband and two sons, her life begins to unravel. She is haunted by memories and decisions made years ago. Eleanor has to make some decisions that will impact her family’s future.

I enjoyed reading this book, the characters are messy and you find yourself wanted to know how the book will end. I am looking forward to our discussion on April 22.

I was pleased to see The Life room is a Reading Group Choices selection for March. There is a lot of buzz around this book, our timing is perfect!

Here are the links to a few articles worth reading: Washington Post, NY Times Review

A Chicago Tribune favorite book of 2007

Author Q&A:
Tell us a little about yourself (biography):
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I grew up in the suburbs and my memories are of snow filled winters and long, endless summers. As a young girl I connected with books to quench my curiosity and curb my loneliness and wished one day to be a poet and novelist. I was enamored by the experience of reading a novel or a poem and entering an entirely foreign new world. I was fortunate enough to attend a poetry workshop at Ohio University as an undergraduate and to have studied with a poet who encouraged me to find my own voice. Ever since I have had a love affair with the written word.

What are you reading now? Now I am reading A Room With a View by EM Forester, a wonderful novel about the unknowable self revealed through an encounter in Italy. I just finished Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, a devastating portrait of a marriage. And by my bedside are many volumes of poetry I turn to again and again.

Format: Hardcover (337 pages), paperback (352 pages)

Synopsis:Eleanor Cahn is a professor of literature, the wife of a preeminent cardiac surgeon, and a devoted mother. But on a trip to Paris to present a paper on Anna Karenina, Eleanor re-connects with Stephen—a childhood friend with whom she has had a complicated relationship—that forces her to realize that she has suppressed her passionate self for years. As the novel unfolds, we learn of her hidden erotic past: with alluring, elusive Stephen; with ethereal William, her high school boyfriend; with married, egotistical Adam, the painter who initiated her into the intimacies of the "life room," where the artist’s model sometimes becomes muse; and with loyal, steady Michael, her husband. On her return to New York, Eleanor and Stephen’s charged attraction takes on a life of its own and threatens to destroy everything she has.

Jill Bialosky has created a fresh, piercingly real heroine who struggles with the spiritual questions and dilemmas of our time and, like Tolstoy’s immortal Anna Karenina, must choose between desire and responsibility.

“A suspenseful tale.” – The NY Times Book Review

“Bialosky creates a character brave enough to look back and try to regenerate all the emotional intensity of her younger self. Eleanor Cahn’s journey is not just a reawakening, but a reclamation of a vital part of herself long buried under domestic minutiae and the travails of balancing family and career.” – The Boston Globe

Customer reviews from Amazon:
Enchanting: The Life Room is a captivating read. The text is thoughtfully and beautifully written, bringing the novel's main character to life in the readers mind where she will stay long after the book is closed.

"Were we all, we who lived deeply, doomed?": With Tolstoy's tortured Anna Karenina as subtext, literature professor Eleanor Cahn leaves her beloved family in New York for a ten day conference in Paris where she has been asked to give a paper. Conflicted about the trip, Eleanor grants herself permission to indulge in the professional aspect of her life, forever at war with the more traditional...