Joanna Rakoff’s “A Fortunate Age” | Bloomsbury

What one would expect more from a novel when it begins with a lavishing wedding? Marriage and fortune are synonymous; especially for women in most of the cultures. Joanna Rakoff in her novel A Fortunate Age tells the story of six friends, all Jews, young and dynamic, recently graduated from Oberlin. Chasing their dream they come to New York and here they are introduced to the real life struggles of survival, both financial and emotional. Dichotomy between love and sustainable life, between dream job and financial stability, confused and complicated relationships are common to their lives. Protecting one’s individuality amidst of social hypocrisies is not an easy task.

Divided into 16 chapters, this novel portrays the story of multiple characters through multiple perspectives. They all have different views and opinions of each other and the narrative covers their independent point of views in a non-judgmental manner.

The tale begins with the reunion in the lavishing wedding of Lillian. They seem more surprised than happy as neither of them planned it so early but they supported and wished her a happy life.

The story proceeds through individual perspective from Beth to Sadie, Lil, Dave and Emily. Love triangles, extra marital affairs, emotional crisis and financial struggles are major parts of the story. By the end of it all girls are married and boys have achieved successful career. Where the irony is while it begins with wedding it concludes with a funeral which is tragic and melancholic.

The novel covers the time span of six years .The omniscient narrator tells the story with great details.  Fragmentation and flashback are used remarkably along with rich imageries in the narration that relates it to postmodern literature .

The intertextual elements hailing from from Shakespeare to T.S. Eliot and Jane Austen to Erica Jong, make this book rich in composition. Most of the characters have English as their major subject in the graduation and perhaps it is not merely a co – incidence that the author herself has studied English literature from Oberlin which gives an autobiographical touch to the story.

Being a woman the author gives here deeper understanding of women psychology. All her women characters are different sort of individuals though she focuses on Sadie more than others.

Sadie represents an unfettered woman, who is married and has 2 kids, but still at times feels to flee away from all responsibilities and be free. She is the one who never cares about society and takes her pre-marital pregnancy easily. She accepts her sexuality and doesn’t feel ashamed of being selfish at some moments.

Entailing diverse themes, like, love, hate, friendships, emotions, illicit romance, erotica, miseries, loneliness, madness, passion and survival along with marriages and death, this novel becomes a package of multiplicity.

The title reminds me of the lines from, A Tale of Two Cities of Charles Dickens.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

These lines beautifully summarize the book and suites the title as well. This book as a whole is a worth reading, in case one has enough time to read from hectic schedule as it is stretched to more than 500 pages somehow unnecessarily .

Archana Basisth
A Master’s Degree holder in English Literature,
Archana craves for reading, writing,
however, she shies away !


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