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by Jill Bialosky

Eleanor Cahn is a professor of literature, the wife of a preeminent cardiac surgeon, and a devoted mother. But on a trip to Paris to present a paper on Anna Karenina, Eleanor re-connects with Stephen—a childhood friend with whom she has had a complicated relationship—that forces her to realize that she has suppressed her passionate self for years. As the novel unfolds, we learn of her hidden erotic past: with alluring, elusive Stephen; with ethereal William, her high school boyfriend; with married, egotistical Adam, the painter who initiated her into the intimacies of the "life room," where the artist’s model sometimes becomes muse; and with loyal, steady Michael, her husband. On her return to New York, Eleanor and Stephen’s charged attraction takes on a life of its own and threatens to destroy everything she has. Jill Bialosky has created a fresh, piercingly real heroine who struggles with the spiritual questions and dilemmas of our time and, like Tolstoy’s immortal Anna Karenina, must choose between desire and responsibility.
Download The Life Room epub
ISBN: 0151010471
ISBN13: 978-0151010479
Category: Mystery
Subcategory: Thrillers & Suspense
Author: Jill Bialosky
Language: English
Publisher: Harcourt (August 6, 2007)
Pages: 352 pages
ePUB size: 1356 kb
FB2 size: 1366 kb
Rating: 4.6
Votes: 897
Other Formats: lit mobi txt mbr

Love the writers style. This story takes you through so many twists and turns to have such a random ending. But I guess that's true to life.
With Tolstoy's tortured Anna Karenina as subtext, literature professor Eleanor Cahn leaves her beloved family in New York for a ten day conference in Paris where she has been asked to give a paper. Conflicted about the trip, Eleanor grants herself permission to indulge in the professional aspect of her life, forever at war with the more traditional wife/mother role, creating a stable family unit that was missing in her own childhood. While sorting through the pros and cons of a decision to embrace her identity as a serious scholar (mostly pro), Eleanor reflects upon the early years of a childhood defined by the adoration of a flawed father who cannot escape his history, the annihilation of his Jewish family. Rather than drag wife and daughter into the complicated morass of his mind, Eleanor's father chooses to leave a devastated, still-devoted wife and loving daughter to pursue oblivion in drink and younger women.

Their home a veritable shrine to what might have been, Eleanor's mother endures migraines while a growing daughter seeks respite in the arms of lovers, from her first crush to an arrogant artist, settling finally for the security of heart surgeon Michael. That Eleanor has one blue eye and one green further illustrates the dichotomy of her existence, the internal war of appearance vs. reality, her husband unaware (and perhaps incurious) of the deep emotions that have so far failed to surface in the marriage. But Paris releases both memory and a yearning to delve once more into the explosive passions that surge beneath Eleanor's academic façade.

In Paris, Eleanor and her colleagues become individuals separate from their identities, temporarily unmoored from family ties and obligations, most evident in the journal Eleanor keeps while in that evocative city. Her bifurcated life revealed through the diary, Eleanor probes carefully hidden secrets, the power of memory exacerbated by a meeting with her first crush, Stephen Mason, the elusive former neighbor who slipped out of her life before Eleanor could determine the extent of her feelings. Stephen is the link, an early unfulfilled sexual awakening, the first male to fill the vacuum left by an errant father. Although Stephen clearly has a private agenda, he is a serious threat to Eleanor's hard-won security. The author thoroughly explores Eleanor's romances with flawed men who are either unavailable or unable to commit, loading the dice in favor of the sanctioned Michael. Without subtlety, Freud runs screaming from the room.

Bialosky's prose is riddled with angst. Are the demands of family more important than one's personal quest for fulfillment? Is the interior life a valid pursuit? Is the past more seductive than the present? Undoubtedly. Familiar questions, but in this case artfully imbued with the parallel of Karenina's great tragedy. Made more personal in the particulars of Eleanor's conflict, this modern woman, as both Madonna and lover, mother and wanton, is caught in a frantic dance on the head of a pin until she literally falls, exhausted into expectations. Luan Gaines/2007.
Reviewed by Julie Failla Earhart

Eleanor Cahn is the protagonist in Jill Bialosky's second novel, The Life Room. Full-time literature professor, married and mother to two boys, Eleanor is about to take the trip of a lifetime....she is presenting a paper on Anna Karenina at a conference in Paris. She's torn about going. Eleanor feels what many women feel: torn and guilty for caring as deeply about her work (as a literature professor) as she does her husband and children. The novel opens with a bang and sets the stage for a modern dilemma.

Then I got to page 16 and the beginning of Chapter 4. Ignited by a call from her mother that her childhood friend and probably first love, Stephen, will also be in Paris, begins an excruciatingly long flashback that tediously accounts recounts the men in Eleanor's life. First there is Stephen; then her high school sweetheart, William; followed by her college affair with the married painter, Adam. It is Adam who introduces her to "the life room," but the concept is so esoteric that I could never firmly grasp what "the life room" was. The previews claimed there was a lot of eroticism in this work, but I found it woefully short.

Eleanor loves Paris, visiting the museums, presenting her paper (which she is then asked to turn into a book), discussing literature with colleagues (all whom seem American, which I found as rather odd). Still she is happy to come home and take up life where she left off.

Somehow, someway, Stephen shows up and begins to appear in different aspects of her life. Then there is more angst about why he is in her life filled in by flashbacks with William, but mostly Adam, and returned to present time with emails to one of her male colleagues she met in Paris.

Confused? Me too. I think the reader was supposed to feel the pull of work and home, past and present. More important I think the reader is supposed to feel that he/she too can feel both repulsed and raptured by the opposite sex when married. Eleanor seems fascinated with every man in her life but her husband.

Other than the hints that Stephen is a firebug, The Life Room has little going for it.

Armchair Interviews says: Heed this reviewer's advice.
Even though Bialosky is a good writer, she has nothing to say ( at least that I want to hear,) in this book. Endless chatter, nothing happens. If her target audience is educated, sexually frustrated women over 35, with husband, children and career, then this book will do a lot to increase the frustration. Exhausting, mind numbingly boring, impossible to read. I am very glad this was a library book.

Cheryl Renee Long
Ithis is an ambitious and multilayer novel that made me think about the different ways in which we perceive of love. Eleanor is a sympathetic and string hero.
The Life Room is a captivating read. The text is thoughtfully and beautifully written, bringing the novel's main character to life in the readers mind where she will stay long after the book is closed.