Not a trout? It’s a scandal: Years after her Notes on a Scandal became a much-derided film, noveilist Zoe Heller just flipped her focus in The Believers, And in classic British bluntness (insensitivity?), Telegraph UK is careful to report that “Heller, dressed in a sleeveless top, looks, at 43, more semi-retired glamourpuss than fierce middle-aged trout.”

The standout character in her last novel, Notes on a Scandal, was its angry, obsessive, loneliness-crazed narrator, Barbara. In The Believers it is Audrey, with her vile temper, self-righteousness and patrician hauteur. Heller has a strong line in unsympathetic female characters, I suggest.

‘Well,’ she says, sounding a little crestfallen. ‘They’re not meant to be extremely unsympathetic. I think, probably, I am fast becoming one in a long line of fierce middle-aged trouts. I’ve known a lot of difficult, powerful, obstreperous women in my life and I have certain tendencies that way myself. And, you know, I find her kind of funny and,’ she chuckles, ‘quite loveable.’

She is drinking Diet Coke and at the end of one toned and tanned arm is a cigarette. On her right shoulder is a relic of her English childhood: a small, faded tattoo of a tortoise. ‘I was 17,’ she says. ‘On the Finchley Road. And I was with some boys who were getting naked women, the ace of spades and so on. I wasn’t going to get a naked lady and it happened at the time that my favourite animal was a tortoise.’

Not for diamonds,  but for friends.
Cheryl Jarvis’ new novel The Necklace tells the story of a group of midlife women who join forces to buy a $15,000 necklace together. But the story, she told reporters this week, is about far more than jewelry:

Q: You don’t usually think of social activism and altruism together with diamonds.

No, you don’t. That’s one of the things that makes this story unusual.
For Jonell McClain (who came up with the original idea), she’s really
interested in the sociology of it, the whole element of what it looks
like to share. We can all stand together and admire the beautiful
landscapes in our country, we can all stand in art museums and see
beautiful artworks, but when it comes to personal luxuries, why can’t
we share them the same way? Why can’t they be available to everybody?

I spent one week with each woman, traipsing around with her. It was a
chance for me to see how 13 women my age live their lives. I could see
what was missing in my own life.

Q: What was missing?

Fun! It got me thinking, I have 12 friends, but they’re all over the
country. And how unusual it is, and how wonderful it is, to have them
all in the same town. To me, the story is about the importance
of female friends as we get older. Our children grow up and leave home,
spouses can divorce or die. Female friends become our bedrock. I
definitely think there’s more of a need and a recognition of this in
one’s 50s than in one’s 30s.

A room of one’s own- for books: That lifelong dream came true for boomer Anne Koslow, she told Newsday this week, in a story about boomer entrepeneurs. “Children of war and economic depressions, influenced by parents who
focused on security first, the high school and college graduates of the
’40s and ’50s say they went into jobs that offered a paycheck and
health benefits — if sometimes not much soul satisfaction.” Now, at least for Koslow, it’s different:

Since she had been buying books since she was 7, devouring them and then buying more, selling books at 79 seemed like the logical next step. Now sprung from the restraints of job, motherhood and home ownership, she sold the big house in St. James and rented an apartment in Sayville and a shop in Smithtown, which she converted into the Pre-Read Book World Inc…

Koslow is far from alone in turning a lifelong passion into a later-in-life business. Koslow dropped out of Queens College after two years, got married and worked at assorted part-time jobs from waitress to fundraiser. “They were just jobs, you weren’t thinking of a career when the children were small,” she said. She went back for bachelor’s and master’s degrees when her children were school age. Between household chores, she read. Two years into life with her own bookstore, her enthusiasm for books has not dampened. “I still love them,” she said. “I’ll never stop reading.”

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