Review of 'The Invisible Women's Club' - Helen Paris
I was intrigued by the premise of this book because I am now at an age where I often feel as though I'm invisible. I often tell my husband and my children that the only time I feel they really, properly, listen is when I lose my temper and shout. The only time I've ever felt like this before was when my youngest son was very small. I felt that I - or at least the part of me that was me - was slowly disappearing beneath the titles of wife and mother. My reaction to that was to start studying for an MA in Creative Writing, just because I wanted to. It was something I was doing that was solely for me.
The plot centres around Janet Pimm - it's established fairly early on that her life was not always as lonely and conventional as it is when the book begins, but whatever her past has been, now she lives alone and her life revolves around her allotment and the plants within it. Janet is clearly a person who it is easy to misunderstand and become offended with and this increases her isolation from those around her.
She ends up on a slightly bizarre road trip, driven by the desire to save the allotment, but the journey ends up being more than just a trip up north, it's the beginning of Janet's road back to herself and the person she once was. Her trip to Whernside and the description of the weather towards the summit reminded me of a very cold and snowy New Year's Day when I climbed it with my husband and son and my brother and his wife. It was freezing cold and foggy and the snow was quite thick at the bottom, but the sense of achievement and elation when we reached the top was wonderful. However, it also brought back memories of our own experiences of getting lost when out hiking - in our case on Fylingdale Moor. We had our then 5 year old son and 3 dogs with us and it was getting dark and we had no idea where we were. My son saved me from going head first over a steep drop and I've never been so grateful to see the lights of a garage in the twilight!
The descriptions of menopause are both funny and poignant. So many female friends have shared with me their feelings of somehow losing part of their womanhood when they went through it and although I am firmly still in the 'peri' stage of menopause, the brain fog is already beginning to make itself felt. Last week in Tesco, I forgot the word 'bag' and had to try to mime what I wanted to the very bemused checkout lady. For a writer, not being able to grasp words is a scary experience!
Janet is a character whom, whilst probably hard to love in real life, is very easy to fall in love with on the page. Her life has made her the person she is when we meet her and although to some extent, her choices were her own, I can't escape the feeling that if society, or even her own family, had been different, she may not have made the same choices and would, in all likelihood, have led a far happier life. Nevertheless, by the time I closed the book, I was feeling fairly confident that the rest of Janet's life would be much better than she had anticipated and in the end, that's all we can ask for someone we care about!