A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff
Do you watch the show Girls on HBO? Are you wondering why I’m asking you if you watch Girls? Well you see, this is what happened. Almost two months ago, I started reading the book A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff. Yes, two months ago. I’m sorry. Why am I sorry? Well I finished it pretty quickly and then didn’t blog about it. Why didn’t I blog about it? I started watching Girls from the beginning of the series and got so sucked into it that I didn’t write anything about A Fortunate Age. Then, once I finished watching Girls (yes, I watched the entire first season and then caught up with the second season and finished watching that as well), I started reading J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. Now that book, I didn’t read so quickly. In fact, that took me probably a month and a half of the past two months when I didn’t blog.
I’m rambling. I’m sorry. Here’s my point. I finally finished The Casual Vacancy and before I get sucked into another book, I’m going to write about the two books I read in the past two months. And maybe talk some more about Girls (I promise, it kind of ties in). And, without further ado, tonight, A Fortunate Age.
A Fortunate Age details the lives of a group of Oberlin graduates all trying to “make it” while living in Brooklyn in the late 90’s up until shortly post 9/11. The narration moves from friend to friend in the group with gaps of time, and occasionally, gaps in information. At one point, you’re reading about an awkward encounter between a character on a first date only to find out through the narration of another friend that she’s marrying that same man. The reader never really learns how (what I at least thought was) a one night stand evolves into marriage and you have to be OK with that if you’re going to make it through the book. Because it jumps. A lot. But not in a bad way. The characters don’t really seem to know what they’re doing with their lives and as they’re trying to figure it out, the jumping seems to suit their disjointed lives.
For the most part, I enjoyed A Fortunate Age, although I have to say it wasn’t the most happy of books. The characters have some really sad “it’s tough out there in the real world” experiences. For any twenty-something out there who is looking for an uplifting “you’ll figure it all out!” book, this isn’t it. Because some of the characters don’t figure it out. That’s why it’s realistic.
And now, Girls. Wait, don’t stop reading! I promised that it would relate and it does. Part of me feels that Lena Dunham (Girls’ writer) had to have read this book. When in the show, you find out they all became friends at Oberlin I had this “oh duh, that makes sense” moment after having read A Fortunate Age. Group of friends (all Oberlin graduates) trying to make it work and get their lives together in Brooklyn sounded very similar to Rakoff’s novel. I mean, I guess in the grand scheme of things, that is a very broad (and not unusual) topic BUT I personally thought that the show and the novel shared a similar tone. Except Girls made me laugh a lot more. (It also made me so uncomfortable at parts that I almost couldn’t watch, but that’s a whole different story. I’m looking at you, Marnie singing Kanye.)
A Fortunate Age begins with a quote from George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda. I liked it so much that I highlighted it right off the bat. I think it fitting to end this blog post with that very quote.
“What she was clear upon was, that she did not wish to lead the same sort of life as ordinary young ladies did; but what she was not clear upon was, how she should set about leading any other…”
Until next time, and The Casual Vacancy!