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by Judy Lawn

Category: Fiction / General
197 pages; ISBN: 1-894942-00-0

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Mayra Calvani


Auckland, New Zealand’s “City of Sails.”

Vanessa, at the “fragile” age of 44, suddenly finds herself alone at home. Her kids, now grown, have gone off to study. Her husband has just moved out to live with his mistress.

Vanessa can’t help laughing at her predicament. Free at last! Yet uncertainty and fear for what the future holds fills her soul.

Her children and neighbors aren’t particularly helpful nor comforting. Stuck with a dead-end job and living a dull, gray life, she is terrified of ending up as most of the women her age: watching soap operas and gossiping. But not even all her self-help books and subscription to Cosmopolitan are helping.

Henry, her neighbour, is obviously interested, but who needs to jump into another relationship so soon, specially with a man who, though caring, leaves her cold?

Instinctively aware she needs a change, Vanessa makes some clumsy attempts like coloring her hair red, getting a new wardrobe, and looking for another job. She also decides to make a trip to Zidney, and thus meets Nigel—young, irresistible Nigel—who, in an instant, with his flashing black eyes and “lost boy” looks, sweeps her off her feet.

For a while it seems their romance will last forever. Then tragedy strikes, and Vanessa’s dull gray life threatens to consume her once again. But is it a man what she truly needs, or is this just a “mask” for a much deeper void that lies within?

Nominated for an EPPIE 2005 award, Progressions is a story about sexual awakening and the sad, almost pitiful fatalism of women’s roles in society, particularly of Vanessa’s age group. The author has done an excellent job in portraying Vanessa as a vulnerable yet shallow human being who was obviously raised to believe that a woman is nothing without a man at her side, a woman incapable of enjoying solitude and without any intellectual restlessness of any kind. I highly recommend this book for group readings, as it raises some quite interesting and controversial questions about women’s roles.


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