Breaking the Interface
Her eye for detail, which she casts over incidents, interactions, relationships, is both merciless and subtle: from her suggestion that women in conventional families “can’t see anything at all,” to her admission that in wounding her children “I learned to truly love them,” to her pitch-perfect evocation of the post-separation home: “Our daughters and I do not leave home very often: a kind of numbness has settled on our household that at any moment can transform into pain.”
A Life’s Work dealt with your experience of motherhood—was it more difficult to write about a relationship that involved two people, and a family of four people?
Yes, the experience of motherhood was very integrated and perhaps easier to write about, partly because the baby is a reflective template rather than a moving target. A developed family structure is obviously much more complex and also much more a product of society and history. It has more hinterland, and is harder to conscript and encompass in a single view. With this book I had to find patterns and parallels from much further back, from the roots of drama and Christianity and early modes of civilization, in order to represent my sense that marriage is to an extent an illusion of personal choice. In breaking marriage you break more than your own personal narrative. You break a whole form of life that is profound and extensive in its genesis; you break the interface between self and society, self and history, self and fate as determined by these larger forces.