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Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Ex-Library soft cover moderate reader wear to edges and cover. All the usual library marks , stamps and stickers
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The Pumpkin Eater (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – April 26, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A subtle, fascinating, unhackneyed novel . . . in touch with human realities and frailties, unsentimental and amused. . . .So moving, so funny, so desperate, so alive. . . . [A] fine book, and one to be greatly enjoyed.” -Elizabeth Janeway, The New York Times

“A strange, fresh, gripping book. One of the the many achievements of The Pumpkin Eater is that it somehow manages to find universal truths in what was hardly an archetypal situation: Mortimer peels several layers of skin off the subjects of motherhood, marriage, and monogamy, so that what we’re asked to look at is frequently red-raw and painful without being remotely self-dramatizing. In fact, there’s a dreaminess to some of the prose that is particularly impressive, considering the tumult that the book describes.” —Nick Hornby, The Believer 

About the Author

Penelope Mortimer (1918–1999) was born Penelope Ruth Fletcher in North Wales, the younger of two children of an Anglican clergyman father and his wife. The family moved often, and Penelope was educated at half a dozen institutions before spending a year at the University of London. In 1937 she married the journalist Charles Dimont, with whom she had two daughters. Two more daughters by two different men would follow before, in 1949, she divorced Dimont and married the barrister, novelist, and playwright John Mortimer, with whom she had another daughter and her only son. The Mortimers were celebrated as “the last word in marital chic,” but the marriage was tumultuous and the couple divorced in 1972. In addition to The Pumpkin Eater (1962), made into a 1964 film from a screenplay by Harold Pinter and starring Anne Bancroft and Peter Finch, Mortimer published several other novels, including Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting (1958), Long Distance (1974), and The Handyman (1983); a travel book co-authored with John Mortimer, With Love and Lizards (1957); and a biography of the Queen Mother. She also served as a film critic for the London Observer and was a regular contributor of short stories to The New Yorker. The first volume of her autobiography About Time (1979) was awarded the Whitbread Prize and was followed by About Time Too (1993).

Daphne Merkin is the author of Enchantment, a novel and Dreaming of Hitler, a collection of essays. Her cultural criticism has appeared in a range of publications, including Vogue and The
American Scholar
, and has been widely anthologized. She has been a staff writer for The New Yorker, and is currently a contributing writer at Elle and The New York Times Magazine. She lives in New York City, where she teaches writing, and is at work on a memoir, Melancholy Baby.

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Reprint edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781590173824
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590173824
  • ASIN: 1590173821
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,060,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Penelope Mortimer was an exquisite writer and this is really her masterpiece. I've read it and re-read it many times and have recommended it to many people. Based on the difficult marriage she had with her younger husband, John Mortimer. It's a sad, wistful, melancholic book but, due to the skill of the writer and her light touch, it's never depressing.

P. Mortimer was a witty and intelligent writer, very good company and you'll probably find yourself, like me, wishing you had known her.

I'm not a great lover of fiction. I prefer autobiographies when reading for entertainment. But when I do find a novel to settle into I'm very grateful and this is probably one my favourite novels, maybe partly because it is in fact very autobiographical.

The Home, published in 1971, is in many ways the sequel to Pumpkin Eater so, if you find yourself finishing this book and wanting more, I highly recommend it.

Also worth tracking down is her second autobiography 'About Time Too', in which she writes about her life and how the success of this novel and the film that followed it, changed her very interesting life. Her first biography, 'About Time' I found hard work. It lacked the flair and flow of the sequel.
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In Penelope Mortimer's most popular work, we read a semi-autobiographical account of one woman's descent into what might be a postpartum depression, but then again, is probably more likely a sad commentary on the deplorable times when women had no audible voice. It explores the "problem that has no name" that has reared its ugly head for one wife and mother living in London (Betty Friedan wrote about this "feminine mystique" a year after this book was published).

Married four times with eight children, the unnamed woman's difficulties come to a head during her marriage to Jake Armitage, a successful screenwriter. Theirs is a complicated relationship filled with tumult, infidelity, and the inevitable betrayals that chip away at the marital bond.

We meet the woman first on her psychiatrist's couch, and throughout this tale, we see her confidences, her thoughts, her dreams, and sometimes her fantasies...and then, in the end, we see how Mrs. Armitage finally chooses to carve out some time for herself for contemplation and resolution.

A short and captivating tale, The Pumpkin Eater (New York Review Books Classics) is a chilling, yet sometimes humorous portrayal of marriage and family life. Five stars.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Pumpkin Eater is an interesting story, which takes place in London, and is reported to be somewhat autobiographical. The story begins with an unnamed woman talking with her therapist Mr Simpkin. We learn the woman is Mrs. Armitage. She's been married (4) times, she hates dust and messes, and has (8) children from her previous marriages. She seems to be her own worst enemy. Her current husband Jake and she have been married (13) years and, she wants to have a baby with him, but Jake does not. Jake's a womanizer, and he has a bit of a temper as well. The last thing he wants is another child in the house, in fact he wants to send his wife's (3) oldest boys off to boarding school. Mrs A seems only to know how to reproduce. Her whole identify has been tied to having babies. She has servants, so she need not worry about caring for the babies once she has them. When she does become pregnant once again, abortion is discussed, decisions need to be made. Mrs A is forced to examine her marriage and her life.

There was a lot to think about in this book. It covered the age old topics of marriage, motherhood and fidelity in oftentimes humorous fashion. I was a little surprised that abortion was raised in this story, since this book was originally published in 1962 London. The book is well written.

As I read, I couldn't stop thinking about the nursery rhyme by a similar name throughout this read......"Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater had a wife and couldn't keep her ". While in the nursery rhyme, Peter .... "put her (his wife) in a pumpkin shell ", in this story, although the Armitages' live in the city, Jack builds a glass tower in the country, for their "happy years", and his wife escapes to the tower for much needed quiet contemplation about her life.
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Format: Paperback
There is a distinct boundary which surrounds a novel such as this. As with the works of Alan Sillitoe, there is a desperate honesty to the prose. The work is stylized, but not ambiguous. The themes are universal. The topics are marriage, the resilience of the human heart and loss. THE PUMPKIN EATER is a modern masterpiece for many reasons, but largely because the novel reflects so urgently, the writer's personal life unashamedly and with language as pristine as still water. In this beautiful paperback edition, we actually have an introductory essay which engages the reader and helps enrich our reading of the book. The package succeeds with five stars.

Mrs. Armitage enters a marriage which she knows ill eventually fail her. She bears children from which she feels all too distant. Her husband's narcissism and their common infidelities trigger not only the unraveling of a dysfunctional relationship, but her mental dissolution. Rarely has a descent into depression been rendered with such clarity and fidelity, or redemption with such nuance and compassion.

Mortimer, wrote this in her forties during her marriage to John Mortimer. The relationship clearly provided the author's foundation for her characters, and critical events in the narrative. As in Penelope Mortimer's life, Mrs. Armitage seems swept along by the currents of her life, and her keen self-awareness is all that keeps her afloat. This knowledge of self emerges in dozens, perhaps hundreds of "one-liners" or brief paragraphs in which the author's insights and word-choice are stunning. Her dark humor surprises with such force and intelligence, only the chilliest reader will fail to laugh aloud.
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