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The Book Borrower: A Novel

Mattison, Alice

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ISBN 10: 0688168248 / ISBN 13: 9780688168247
Verlag: William Morrow & Company, Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., 1999
Gebraucht Zustand: Fine Hardcover
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A fine hardcover copy of the book. Binding is tight, pages are clean. Not an ex-library copy. Dust jacket is in a protective mylar cover. Shipped Weight: Under 1 kilogram. Category: Fiction; ISBN: 0688168248. ISBN/EAN: 9780688168247. Inventory No: 011582. Buchnummer des Verkäufers 011582

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Bibliografische Details

Titel: The Book Borrower: A Novel

Verlag: William Morrow & Company, Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.

Erscheinungsdatum: 1999

Einband: Hard Cover


Über diesen Titel


On the first page of The Book Borrower, Toby Ruben and Deborah Laidlaw meet in a city playground where they are looking after their babies. Deborah lends Toby a book, Trolley Girl, a memoir about a 1920s trolley strike and three Jewish sisters, which will disappear and reappear throughout the twenty-two years these women are friends.

Toby and Deborah raise children in the seventies while arguing over Patty Hearst and the meaning of life. They find work teaching inner-city day-care workers, a job that leads to conflict between them. Meanwhile, Toby reads the opening chapters of Trolley Girl with interest, but puts the book aside when its story turns tragic.

Ten years later we find Toby and Deborah adjunct English instructors at a college. They are mothers of school-age children, stealing time to drink a beer, still deeply involved in their difficult friendship. The borrowed book has long since disappeared from Toby's consciousness.

Another decade passes. Toby and Deborah spend a November afternoon hiking down a trail in the park. They never imagine that the outing will be their last together. In the final chapters of the novel, The Trolley Girl reemerges from Toby's dusty bookshelf and unexpectedly helps her come to terms with this agonizing loss.


As with so many contemporary classics of female friendship--and make no mistake, The Book Borrower joins the ranks--Alice Mattison's novel begins in a park with two young mothers minding their children. Toby Ruben and Deborah Laidlaw strike up a prickly, talky relationship when Deborah loans Toby a book, Trolley Girl. Toby is charmed by her new friend: after Deborah calls, she "felt that swirl in the throat, as when the teacher said hers was the best; and she was also troubled." She's equally charmed by the book, reading as she pushes her baby in his stroller, reading late into the night. Trolley Girl forms a narrative-within-the-narrative; we read it along with Toby. It is the memoir of a woman whose sister was killed in a 1921 trolley strike. A third sister, an anarchist rabble-rouser named Jessie, may or may not have been responsible for the death.

Ten years later, despite their problems, Deborah and Toby are still friends, still raising their families together. They may talk about Trolley Girl, but there seems to be little time for reading; instead, the two women teach classes, take classes, scold children. The novel leaps ahead another 10 years: The women's friendship comes to a tragic end. Just when Toby is at her lowest ebb of despair, who should appear in her (real) life but Jessie, the anarchist sister, who happens to live nearby. Jessie brings Toby an unexpected measure of comfort.

Alice Mattison's novel of friendship and history succeeds on so many levels it's almost dizzying. As a portrait of friendship it is difficult and true. As a diagram of loss it is exacting and rigorous. Yet the author has bigger goals here. Like Margaret Drabble in her later work, Mattison seeks to connect the bloody events of the world to the quiet lives of her characters. And, finally, she comes up with an allegory of reading itself: the character Jessie steps out of the pages of Trolley Girl to provide Toby with the solace she needs. So books daily come to our rescue. --Claire Dederer

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