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Clarke, Margaret.

Edmonton, NeWest Press, c1984. 179pp, paper, $7.95, ISBN 0-920316-6W. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Margaret S. MacLean

Volume 13 Number 4
1985 July

The Cutting Season has two flaws and at least as many virtues. Margaret Clarke tries to do too much, a not uncommon fault in a first novel. The Haw that strikes this reviewer is her adoption of that appalling male novelist's solution of killing off the unwanted female. It is clear that men want more than one woman. Some men, like David in Dicken's David Copperfield, want them legally. He wants the cute flirt and the sensible, steady care-giver. It is offensive in Dickens who believes in his story. It is offensive in Ian Fleming even though his novels are spoofs. It is offensive in Margaret Clarke as a form of killing off the trouble rather than solving or living with it.

The novel's core is about women liberating themselves: mothers from husband, sons, daughters, and dependence; daughters liberating themselves from parents, siblings, women friends, work when work demands too much, and, of course, men.

Two women struggle to create themselves. Joanne has never known who she is. She moved from being her parent's daughter to her husband's wife to her children's mother. At forty-eight, she is suddenly a widow with two grown children, and as Mrs. Widow Frost, she does not know who she is, but knows that she must find out, and quickly. She isolates herself at the family summer cottage, and because, by the end of the summer, she realizes that she is just beginning to find out about herself, she decides to winterize the cottage herself and continue this course of self-realization. Of course her children object. The son's role does not figure largely, but he is rigid and hurt. The daughter questions her own attitudes and does as much growing as her mother. The feminist issues covered range from such trivia as establishing a bank account, learning to wield tools, becoming expert at physical activities, acknowledging a hatred of cooking, to establishing mental, emotional, and physical independence.

Margaret Clarke won the Search for a New Manitoba Novelist Competition with The Cutting Season. It is a good first novel. For senior high school students and adults.

Margaret S. MacLean, Central Technical School, Toronto, Ont.
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