I can confirm that in the film version of The Girl On The Train, Emily Blunt is brilliant as the sozzled heroine. She carries the entire film (a solid thriller at best). Her downward spiral after realising that she will never have children is compelling; in the scene where she admits “it broke my heart”, she manages to tangibly convey that heartbreak with face and voice. It’s a respectful, non-barmy portrayal from Blunt of a woman who has been ruptured by infertility.
I hear that The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison will be released as a film with Nicole Kidman next year – she plays Jodi, the childfree, 40-something main character who has made a conscious decision not to have children. Her life initially appears to be enviable: fulfilling, cerebral job; fabulous house and possessions; a successful soulmate, so it’s interesting to come across a very early passage which gave me pause for thought:
“Daily routine is the great balm that keeps her spirits up and holds her life together, warding off the existential fright that can take you by ambush any time you’re dithering or at a loss, reminding you of the magnitude of the void you are sitting on”.
It’s a good evocation of keeping the dread of meaninglessness at bay, and I wondered if the author intended “the void” in this case to be Jodi’s lack of children. But I recall that when I fell into my own rabbit hole of existential fright in my mid-30s, it was the daily routine that slayed me. The commute, the miserable office, the non-career, the sameness of the days: my routine was no balm, it loomed ahead of me like a long drawn-out death sentence.
I lost sight of the good stuff in my life and thought that having a child – that thing that every other couple was doing – would make it all coalesce into cheery meaningfulness. I realize now that I was trying to swap one dreary routine for another – surely parents experience the same profound WTF moments as they pack the kids’ lunchboxes for the 1000th time and wake up in the wintry dark with the school run ahead? Maybe the meaning kicks in when the children morph into adults; maybe that fabled “joy” we hear about makes up for any existential angst; maybe not.
Later in the book another passage strikes me:
“The mood that overtakes her is familiar, a sense of being adrift in an empty existence. This is Jodi’s hollow core, her unfortunate place of fundamental truth, a domain that she conceals beneath her mantle of optimism and buries in the rounds of daily life”.
Such descriptions assail me because I know that the protagonist is in her 40s and has no children, I know that the author was in her 40s and had no children, and I therefore take them more personally than I should. But now I simply feel detached and curious when I read them, because I don’t feel like that anymore, and I want any woman who is stuck in the same late-30s rabbit hole to know that it goes away.
I don’t really know how: it just does.
Anyway, Jodi’s partner turns out to be a loathsome middle-aged cliché who suddenly decides, after falling in lust with a hot young girl, that “what he wants is descendants, heirs, or just one heir, preferably a son, someone who shares his DNA, a variant of himself to replace him when he’s gone“. With the right character actors to carry it, I’d say it will be an intriguing film.
Because ultimately, what I like about both The Girl On The Train and The Silent Wife is that the main characters don’t end up with “redemptive” babies on the last page. Their lives are tidied up and they emerge from their respective tunnels OK, sans babes in arms.
Bridget Jones I have no interest in.
If they were natural conceptions, Helen Fielding was among the approximate 3% of women who manage to get knocked up after the age of 45 (she was 46 and 48 when her kids were born). Changing Bridget from every hapless single girl’s heroine to, er…”hilarious” slummy-mummy (I read eight pages of the book) reflects her own experience, I suppose.
Sadly it just unintentionally panders to the whole mad fetish for babies that we’re mired in, and the dangerous, creeping “normalization” of older pregnancies that make infertile women feel crap and contribute to the widespread ignorance about how easy it actually is to have a child at that age.
I won’t be reviewing that one.
Or maybe I will…
Photo of N.Kidman: Rita Molnár, 2001 (derivative work by Towsonu2003) – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Nicole_kidman3.jpg
Photo of R. Zelweger: Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)