On a spring day in Vermont, seventy-nine-year-old painter Hope Chafetz tells the story of her life to Kathryn, a young interviewer from New York. Questions send Hope back to her youth, to the heady postwar days of American art and her relationships with the artists who defined their times. As the day wears on, Kathryn and Hope - interviewer and interviewee - try to understand one another across the gulf of age, experience and time that lies between them. And subtly, as each comes to know the other, their relationship changes!
About the Author
John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. Since 1957 he has lived in Massachusetts. His novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Howells Medal.
In every way this is a beautiful book. There are no chapters to mark a change of topic or a change of pace because, with its own natural rhythm, the prose flows from the first page to the last. A journalist asks permission to interview Hope Chafetz, a painter. Hope agrees to answer her questions and the two of them, the glossy young New York woman and the old lady with her aching arthritic joints, spend the day together in Hope's country home in Vermont, the Sony tape recorder their only witness. Kathryn asks about Hope's children and her three husbands, Zack McCoy and Guy Holloway, both famous artists, and Jerry, a wealthy art lover and collector, whom she loved and who cherished her until his death. The probing questions elicit helpful answers for Hope confesses to being garrulous but in between these long answers Hope's mind goes back to her past, remembers and keeps some secrets for herself. The portrait that emerges is that of an artist among artists, a painter who experienced the excitement of those who rejected the anecdotal and the charming for performance art and abstract experiment. And there is her life as a creative woman frustrated at times by male selfishness or household responsibilities and unable to pursue her own work. Everything described is seen through an artist's eyes: the girl's face, the texture of the thin, mauve glass in the windows, the changing sky. Gradually, detail by detail, Updike gives us this woman, her thoughts, her ageing body, her possessions, her daily routines, preoccupations and pleasures. She has a wonderfully independent spirit. The relationship between young Kathryn and Hope changes as the hours pass and the day fades. With her sheaf of notes and her short, demanding enquiries the girl seems at times pushy, almost antagonistic, reluctant to accept even a cup of coffee. But when the time comes for her to leave the two women have begun to understand each other. An entrancing novel. (Kirkus UK)