Reflective, with a quiet voice.
Open Road Integrated Media
Open Road Media
In her later years, a woman reflects on her marriage, her stifled passions, and her life.
At age ninety, Caroline Maclaren, widow of the prominent composer Robert Maclaren, finally decides to tell her own story. “Perhaps the time was not right to do it before,” she remarks. But now she takes pen to paper, reliving her sheltered girlhood, her chilly marriage to a brilliant man, and—perhaps above all—the melancholy solitude in which she has lived nearly all her life. It was only when her husband fell ill that Caroline found fulfilling companionship with Anna, Robert’s caretaker.
This masterful tale of loneliness and of passion late in life is widely considered to be Grumbach’s finest work. Bittersweet, touching, and profoundly resonant, Chamber Music is captivating.
This narrative is very touching, reflective and paints a sad picture of life, a limited life, for women in the early 1900’s. Choices are narrow, navigated by social status, wealth and the husband’s career… and it was not the “done thing” to share, to discuss feelings and personal insights, discretion was imperative – discretion which really equalled suffer in silence. “Secrets were surely no better kept than they are now, but they lived quietly, under the breath. They never appeared in public print or were reported by professional gossips on the airwaves…this we called decorum and we lived securely under its warm protection.”
However this is not a negative story – it is one told quietly as if in deep reflection, of a life mostly spent selflessly bent to the will of others but a story that does ultimately rejoice in a union of likeminded souls.
Along the way Grumbach make some very pertinent points regarding the writing of autobiographies (though this isn’t one). She talks about timing, about aging. “Old age is a freeing agent. No one should write of her life until the witnesses and acquaintances, family and lovers, are dead…So what one tells is unavailable to verification or correction.” I agree, after all aren’t we the interpreters of our own life? I think so. We don’t need to be challenged on our personal perspectives, they belong to the individual.