Nov 9, 2023Liked by lyz

I am a huge fan of this book! The film is streaming on Criterion's "Pre-Code Divas" right now, and I just watched it the other night. I was surprised by what they chose to include in the movie and omit. Some of the more salacious stuff was left in the movie's plot, if not explicitly shown. But women living together, which was really the heart and soul of the book for me, was omitted, as well as her time at work, which in the book seems to be just as if not more important to her than the dates she has afterwards. And the ending is infuriating. The book is pretty ambivalent and focused on women trying to navigate modern expectations and make the best of it. Whereas the movie is like a morality tale.

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This is the nudge I needed to buy and read Ex-Wife. My interest was tickled by an episode of “lost ladies of lit”, and anything that gets the Lyz award of excellence is clearly a Good Thing too.

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1. The more things change the more they stay the same. Even the thing about all your cells being replaced after seven years. Even so, everything felt very surface-oriented. He hit me. He threw me through a door. Sigh. Oh well. Let's go have a drink, shall we? And how was a baby dying not just simply devastating? Whew.

2. So many themes are with us today ... hints of "tradwife" ideas ... jobs that are "less meaningful" and less well-paid than men's ... not trusting her own gut when she felt in danger.

3. Memory holes are for women's voices. It hinders us because we always have to start over at Square 1, as if it never happened before.

4. Nothing in the book felt happy.

5. It feels like the most real relationships she had were with women. Although I wouldn't say all the women bonded and joined together ... Hilda and Judith were no friends.

6. I suppose the biggest difference between the book and the movie was the ending, but the plotline was also changed quite a bit for the movie.


Somewhat off-topic but still related maybe ... I just saw a snippet of Chelsea Handler interviewing Joan Baez about her new documentary (which I now need to get my hands on), and Joan talked about going through the bone-shattering work of remembering through therapy for years until she felt whole. And then the therapist hinted that now was the time to start dating again. And Joan said, no fucking way. She didn't want to wreck her life by taking on another level of work.

So much of our stories are about how much WORK we put in and how little we get back from that.

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i'm late to this book club and wish i wasn't. because i love the film.

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So excited to get started! This is sold out on Bookshop but luckily (in case anyone else ran into this) there's several copies avail on Abebooks

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Sorry, late to the party this time, tracking down a copy now (want to read the book first).

Anyway, bouncing off the comments here, am I right in guessing that the book passes the Bechdel test, while the film fails it?

How unusual for a male-dominated industry, where the prevailing assumption has always been Why on earth would anyone want to see two (or more) women women talking if not about them?

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Wow! I LOVED this book. I am really happy the book club put it on my radar. This is the best book club because I can get to the book when I want and not try to figure out when is too early or too late to start.

I just requested the movie from my library. I haven't see many pre-code movies, so i am looking forward to it.

I liked the ending with Nathaniel. While Patricia might never see the highs she had with Peter or Noel, she won't see the lows either. And although I don't think she needed to get married for happiness, she wanted to, so I am happy that she was able to do that. Patricia showed herself to be a practical person, so ending up with Nathaniel and being able to achieve her other desires, like travel are being fulfilled.

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Nov 15, 2023·edited Nov 15, 2023

Very late to the party, but I just finished reading this last night. (I have not seen the movie.) Thanks for introducing us to this lost classic, Lyz!

1. I got distinct "Sex & the City, 1920s style" vibes from this book. The cocktails, the restaurants, the men, the gal pals... What resonated with me was personally was that Patricia expects her life is going to unfold a certain way -- and then the carpet gets pulled out from under her feet, and she has to deal with the grief over the loss of her marriage. I could relate to the loss of her baby (stillbirth at 6 months for me), and her reactions to Beatrice & Lucia's pregnancies. I was never able to have another child, and for me, the years since then have meant a total rethinking of my life, my relationships and where I find meaning & joy. I see Patricia going through something very similar.

2. Yes.

3. On the one hand, this was a book very much of its time -- but on the other, its themes and scenarios are still highly relevant -- aside from a few period-specific details, it could take place in NYC today. I suppose the fact that it was by & about women was one reason we haven't heard about it after its initial success. I read an article about the book that said it actually outsold "The Great Gatsby" when it was first published; it was only during WW2 when Gatsby was one of the books provided to soldiers for reading material, that Gatsby came to be considered a classic. Of course, how many popular/bestselling novels from the 1960s and 1970s are still widely read today?

We're hindered as a culture when we fail to learn the lessons from previous generations (i.e., we are doomed to repeat them, as the saying goes).

4. It wasn't exactly a happy ending. I felt like Patricia was "settling" for Ned, when her heart was clearly elsewhere with Noel. But I did feel like they might be able to have a reasonably happy life together, because they knew each other well and were honest with each other about their expectations.

5. I also enjoyed the friendships among the women. :) Obviously not all of them (Hilda, Judith) were "kindred spirits." But Lucia was wonderful, and even Beatrice was weirdly likable/sympathetic, once we got to know her, even if she was standing in the way of Patricia's happiness with Noel.

6. I have not seen the movie, but I'm not surprised abortion & sexual assault were not part of it, even in pre-Code Hollywood. Strong stuff for the time, and even today.

One thing that irritated me somewhat: Patricia's constant references to her age and how old she feels. Yes, she goes through a lot in the book. But she's not even 30 by the time the novel ends!

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