I spent the weekend* reading Kate Christensen's novel The Great Man, and loving it. It's the story of one Oscar Feldman, a well-known American painter, whose only role in this book is to be the man who was loved by a variety of fascinating women. (The book actually opens with Oscar's obituary.)
The women in question are Oscar's wife, Abigail Feldman; his longtime mistress, Claire (Teddy) St. Cloud; his fellow artist and sister Maxine; his daughters (by Teddy) Ruby and Samantha; even his mistress's best friend, Lila. Each of these women relates her own story of her life with Oscar as they take turns speaking to two very different biographers of Oscar's life. It sounds complex; it's not (or it is, but in the best possible way).
I loved this book. What is totally great is that the women in this book could have been caricatures; the "artist's wronged wife with the autistic son," the "selfish mistress who kept her lover away from their own daughters," the "bitter sister." But they weren't. They were all fascinating, strong, interesting women in their own rights, and in their relations with the "great man," the reader (or at least this reader) gets the sense that they paid their moneys, they took their chances, and they lived with their decisions. Oh--and there's a secret too. An art secret that will make the reader wonder (even more) if Oscar truly was a "great man."
Just lovely. As an added benefit, this book made me feel so young. Lately I have been feeling so tired and old (in my thirties; ridiculous, I know) that to read this book about ladies in their seventies, not without their issues and aches and problems, who are still--and this is a phrase that it hurts me to type but it's really the most appropriate one--hungry for life, made me feel very, very good, and perhaps like I should buck up and try to enjoy what's left of my own youth.
I do think this is a novel that will appeal more to women, although I'd be interested to hear when men think of it too.
*I also spent the wekeend going to see the chick flick The Ugly Truth (which was awful, but we were mainly there to see Gerard Butler, so no harm, no foul) and watching the Guy Ritchie movie RockNRolla with Mr. CR (which was really pretty fantastic). Yup, I'm starting to see why I was having some problems hitting my deadlines.