Theodora Keogh’s 1956 novel My Name is Rose is, like her 1954 novel, The Fascinator, about a married woman having an affair. However, unlike the earlier book, where the story builds up to the affair and the woman is not punished, My Name is Rose depicts a woman whose actions drive her to madness because of the guilt she feels (the narrator’s voice does not seem to condemn her). It takes place in postwar France, with all of the stereotypical touchstones one might expect from such a setting–the poor artistic neighbors, the husband who works on a literary magazine, the American expatriate (Rose herself), the clandestine meetings in cafés, et cetera. But Keogh’s brilliance lies in how affecting, how sharp, how uncanny her books are despite their simple plots. She makes us care for Rose and hope for her happiness, hope that she will realize her husband, who is so modest that he refuses to see her naked, will always make her unhappy. Keogh does this by switching back and forth between first and third person, with Rose’s sections in the form of journal entries. These entries get more and more frenzied even as Rose’s affair makes her happier and happier. Her fatal flaw is that she is only able to take what she wants via action rather than also in spirit–she never commits to doing what she needs, instead letting men use her like a pawn. Rose’s inability to love herself is her undoing. Keogh thus creates another profound proto-feminist text, showing that women must grab control of their own lives.
Tag Archives: feminism
Nora Ephron died today at the age of 71. This is a major loss for American culture. While I enjoyed a number of Ephron’s films, including When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Bewitched, I will especially remember her for her occasional witty personal essays from the New Yorker and her early feminist essays in collections such as Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women (1975). I always felt enriched after reading her work because she had the ability to be profound without being pedantic, and she used enough humor that I would feel inspired to keep on without feeling that she was making a big joke of everything. I will miss her.