Falcus, Sarah (2013) Addressing Age in Michèle Roberts's Reader, I Married Him. Contemporary Women's Writing, 7 (1). pp. 18-34. ISSN 1754-1476

There is no doubt that populations are aging in many parts of the world, including America and the UK. And this demographic change is the subject of increasing attention, and of cultural anxiety. Given the critical agreement that ageing, and ageism, affect women more harshly than men, this is an issue we would expect to have exercised feminists for some time; however, critics argue that this has not been the case. But in recent years this has begun to change and, in literature, more women writers are choosing to place older women and their experiences at the centre of their narratives. This paper will explore one example of this, by a writer deeply affected by second-wave feminism: Michèle Roberts's 2004 novel, Reader I Married Him. This playful text blurs genre, cavorting as chicklit and drawing on the crime novel, romance, and erotica, but can also be seen as a timely presentation of ageing into mid-life and reviewing past experiences. This paper therefore explores this text in the light of key debates about ageing and gender, looking in particular at the way that the liminal age of fifty is represented. Whilst overall I argue that this text is a positive and affirming vision of ageing into midlife, explicitly rejecting a trajectory of restriction and deterioration, I nevertheless suggest that its treatment of the body and sexuality suggests a more ambivalent and even slightly contradictory discourse of ageing, one which makes clear the complexities of the cultural signifiers of age and gender.

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