Cat Brushing

Grove. Aug. 2022. 192p. ISBN 9780802160027. $26. F
DEBUT Published as its author turns 80, this first collection plumbs the lives, longings, and ongoing intellectual turmoil of older women in language that’s light but tart and penetrating; Campbell is a master of the apt phrase, as when an upright woman is described as having “the cold virtue of undamaged porcelain.” As she demonstrates repeatedly in her briskly told tales, “Ageing is often represented as an accumulation, of disease, of discomforts, of wrinkles, but it is really a process of dispossession, of rights, of respect, of desire.” These characters have lost control, from the woman whose beloved Siamese cat will soon be taken away, to an inmate at a fashionable care home given a robot presumably to assuage her loneliness but actually inflicting on her “a lifetime relationship with the worst kind of authoritarian menace.” But independent thought remains, and revelation is possible. An ailing 86-year-old woman for whom physical closeness has always been a chore—she’s a typical example of stiff “British middle-class Protestant womanhood”—suddenly conceives a passion for a beautiful young caretaker, and readers sense her new understanding of how we are our bodies moving gratefully through this world.
VERDICT A charming and incisive study of women in late life that will be revelatory to all readers.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing