The Pumpkin Eater
The Pumpkin Eater
New York Review of Books, Paperback, 9781590173824, 222pp.
Publication Date: April 26, 2011
"The Pumpkin Eater "is a surreal black comedy about the wages of adulthood and the pitfalls of parenthood. A nameless woman speaks, at first from the precarious perch of a therapist's couch, and her smart, wry, confiding, immensely sympathetic voice immediately captures and holds our attention. She is the mother of a vast, swelling brood of children, also nameless, and the wife of a successful screenwriter, Jake Armitage. The Armitages live in the city, but they are building a great glass tower in the country in which to settle down and live happily ever after. But could that dream be nothing more than a sentimental delusion? At the edges of vision the spectral children come and go, while our heroine, alert to the countless gradations of depression and the innumerable forms of betrayal, tries to make sense of it all: doctors, husbands, movie stars, bodies, grocery lists, nursery rhymes, messes, aging parents, memories, dreams, and breakdowns. How to pull it all together? Perhaps you start by falling apart.
Daphne Merkin is the author of "Enchantment," a novel and"Dreaming of Hitler, " a collection of essays. Her cultural criticismhas appeared in a range of publications, including "Vogue" and" The
American Scholar," and has been widely anthologized. She has beena staff writer for "The New Yorker," and is currently a contributingwriter at "Elle" and "The New York Times Magazine." She lives in NewYork City, where she teaches writing, and is at work on a memoir, "Melancholy Baby.""
“A subtle, fascinating, unhackneyed novel . . . in touch with human realities and frailties, unsentimental and amused. . . .So moving, so funny, so desperate, so alive. . . . [A] fine book, and one to be greatly enjoyed.” -Elizabeth Janeway, The New York Times
“A strange, fresh, gripping book. One of the the many achievements of The Pumpkin Eater is that it somehow manages to find universal truths in what was hardly an archetypal situation: Mortimer peels several layers of skin off the subjects of motherhood, marriage, and monogamy, so that what we’re asked to look at is frequently red-raw and painful without being remotely self-dramatizing. In fact, there’s a dreaminess to some of the prose that is particularly impressive, considering the tumult that the book describes.” —Nick Hornby, The Believer