Monday, March 22, 2010

On Infidelity: The Life Room by Jill Bialosky

(In which it confuses me more.)

After reading the book, I was confused as regards to what really moves men to do things. I remember writing a poem about love as being a prime mover of people. But in this novel, the character’s decision seemed to be fueled by passion, which may or may not come from love.

Eleanor Cahn, (whose eyes of different colors remind me of Yuna of Final Fantasy X) lived with an emotionally intense childhood and an erotic series of past relationships. Her relationships with these men defined the way she sees and understands things. She is a professor of literature and a writer who was working on a paper about Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and by coming in contact with her past and analyzing her present, she further understands the aforementioned classic piece.

First there was William, her first boyfriend who had a sensitive childhood like her because of their fathers. They seemed to be out of reach despite being physically present. He has a huge interest about nature and the universe. He is a loner and prefers reflection. When Eleanor went to New York to study, William started to be distant to her. She tried to reach him but he resisted. Then she met Adam.

Adam was an artist who hired Eleanor as his model for his latest series. He developed a passionate interest with Eleanor although he was married and he knows Eleanor loves William. He tried to win her and was somehow successful. They started having an affair so intimate Adam has to be separated with his wife. But all the while, Eleanor never forgot William and just when she thought they could reunite, William killed himself. Adam’s career suffered and so did his behavior. He realized that no one understands him more than his wife and decided to go back to her.

Presently, all seems well – Eleanor was happily married to Michael, a heart surgeon and they were blessed with two beautiful kids, Noah and Nicholas – until she was invited to Paris to present her paper. There she met Stephen Mason, a childhood friend who apparently still holds an important role in her life. Their encounters in Paris and then in New York awakened something unknown to her and threatened to destroy her and her family.

When she met Stephen in Paris, she thought the meeting will not be more than anything but friendly. But when he kissed her and then went to New York to see her more often, she realized she still wants him. Stephen has been Eleanor’s friend and they have always had this special bond between them. He also had a sad childhood because of the relationship of his parents which made him more connected to Eleanor. He thought he is the only one who understands and knows Eleanor. He has been watching her from a distance, afraid that in coming near her he would destroy her. But the connection between them never ceased. Eleanor felt it too and tried to reach Stephen but the latter keeps on running away, leaving something literally burned upon doing so. When he finally had the courage to approach her, he was too late. What he only holds now is an upcoming novel and his past with Eleanor.

Eleanor, knowing that Stephen is in town feels so bothered that it started to affect her relationship with her kids and her husband. She thinks she is too emotional to be understood by a man from the field of science. She then started to think of Anna. She formulated that perhaps Anna really loved her husband but at some point she feels disconnected with him. And with Vronzky she might have felt understood so she had an affair.

Stephen doesn’t stop leaving her voice messages and e-mails telling her what he’s been doing and how he remembers her. Eleanor is filled with excitement and elation at the sound of his voice and it confuses her. If she lets herself be governed by her passion and the longing for her unfinished romance with Stephen, she will put her marriage and her family at stake. But if she resisted she will be denying herself of something as urgent and valuable as life and she then has to watch herself die internally.

The Life Room discusses human relationships – that of parents and children, of spouses and of friends. The novel revolves around the issues in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina – infidelity, passion, desire, the society and the consequences of choices. With every turn of the pages, the novel draws the readers to understand what the characters feel and think in their life rooms and somehow encourages them to create a life room of their own – a place where to reflect and understand themselves through imagination and association.

Currently reading:
Inklings by Melanie M. Jeschke