“Embarking, Not Dying”: Clare Boylan’s Beloved Stranger as Reifungsroman
This chapter reads Clare Boylan’s novel Beloved Stranger (1999) as an example of the recently emerged genre of the Reifungsroman, or novel of ripening. It argues that Boylan’s novel about seventy-five-year-old Lily Butler counteracts the cultural myth of ageing as a narrative of decline without denying its validity. In fact, it is her husband’s mental and physical decline, and eventual death, that forces Lily to review her own life and embark on a journey towards self-discovery. Analysing Lily’s journey inward and backward in time as an example of fictional life review, this chapter shows how Lily’s rich inner life complicates conventional notions of the protagonist’s identity as wife, widow and elderly mother as well as the concept of ageing as a linear narrative of decline.
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