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The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
by Rebecca Miller

Overview - What part of our selves do we hide away in order to have a stable, prosperous life? Pippa Lee has just such a life in place at age fifty, when her older husband, a retired publisher, decides that they should move to a retirement community outside New York City.  Read more...

 
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More About The Private Lives of Pippa Lee by Rebecca Miller
 
 
 
Overview
What part of our selves do we hide away in order to have a stable, prosperous life? Pippa Lee has just such a life in place at age fifty, when her older husband, a retired publisher, decides that they should move to a retirement community outside New York City. Pippa is suddenly deprived of the stimulation and distraction that had held everything in place. She begins losing track of her own mind; her foundations start to shudder, and gradually we learn the truth of the young life that led her finally to settle down in marriage--years of neglect and rebellion, wild transgressions and powerful defiance.
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is the study of a brave, curious, multilayered woman--an acutely intelligent portrait of the many lives behind a single name. Rebecca Miller was a painter and actress before turning her hand to writing and directing. She is the author of the short-story collection Personal Velocity, her feature film adaptation of which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and the writer-director of The Ballad of Jack and Rose. Pippa Lee has a stable and successful adult life at age fifty, when her older husband, a retired publisher, decides they should move to a retirement community outside New York City. Pippa is suddenly deprived of the stimulation and distraction that had held everything in place. She begins losing track of her own mind; her foundations start to shudder, and gradually we learn the truth of the young life that led her finally to settle down in marriage--years of neglect and rebellion, wild transgressions and powerful defiance. The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is the study of a brave, curious, multilayered woman--an acutely intelligent portrait of the many lives behind a single name. When we first meet Pippa Lee in Rebecca Miller's debut novel, she is a doting, loving wife, married to an accomplished book publisher who, at 80, is 30 years her senior. The book begins with the couple moving from Manhattan to a retirement community called Marigold Village. There Pippa is 'in terror of mowing over one of the aged people, dressed in pink and pistachio, their tanned faces collapsed, shriveled skin coming away from knees and elbows. As her adjustments become more complex, the novel takes us into her past to try to make sense of her current life. In high school she runs away from home to New York City, where she takes drugs and mingles with a host of cruel characters. Through it all she maintains an odd innocence. Ms. Miller--a painter, actress and film director who is married to the actor Daniel Day-Lewis and is the daughter of the playwright Arthur Miller--delves into the fraught relationships of families, particularly mothers and daughters, exploring the ways one woman deals with life's surprises.--Julie Bloom, The New York Times
Previously, Ms. Miller published Personal Velocity, three novellas about three young women seeking independence, then turned it into a Sundance hit with memorable performances from Parker Posey as a talented editor who longs to leave her affable husband and Kyra Sedgwick stomping sulkily in and out of a pickup truck (I turned off the DVD player before the Fairuza Balk segment). Pippa Lee persists with this theme. As it opens, the titular protagonist--part Swedish, part Armenian--is in her 50s and comfortably ensconced at a retirement community called Marigold Village with Herb, another talented editor, 30 years her senior. They have twins, a boy, Ben, and a girl, Grace. Pippa is something out of Chekhov, or Virginia Woolf, or Anne Tyler: 'a happy married, well-off woman, a dedicated mother, generous hostess, a woman who seemed to those who knew her to be among the most gracious, the kindest, the loveliest, the most unpretentious and most reassuring ladies they had ever met.' But all is not as it seems. Our heroine is having an identity crisis. She thinks with longing of the days when her children 'looked up at her with such certainty in their little faces, and called her Mama. They knew, so she knew.' But what the heck is she now? Her daughter is becoming (like Inge) a successful photographer; they've never really gotten along, and it's getting worse. 'It was so lonely, ' Pippa pithily notes, 'knowing things about her children that they no longer remembered.' Also, she's sleepwalking. After a sturdy opener, the book quickly assumes a kind of Dagwood-sandwich structure, the meat of Pippa's character piling up in haphazard slices. We learn in first-person flashback that her own mom, Suky, fed her a bottle well into adolescence and popped a lot of pills. Turning to drugs herself, young Pippa finds herself sleeping with a mustachioed male teacher; paddled and filmed by a lesbian pornographer in New York City (where anything can happen ); and returning to suburbia to confront super-freaky Suky in a particularly transgressive way. We learn how Pippa stole Herb from a dusky, busty beauty named Gigi. There will be, and is, blood. Much of the writing in this section is vivid, brave and experimental--short, choppy chapters with titles like 'Aha ' and 'Shackles.'--Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Observer
Miller stands on her own with Pippa Lee as she has with much of her previous work (including the novella collection Personal Velocity and its movie adaptation, and the wonderful film The Ballad of Jack and Rose which Miller also wrote and directed . . . One is reminded of T. S. Eliot's play The Cocktail Party, masquerading as drawing room comedy, to lure us into deeper waters.--Karen Brady, The Buffalo News
Miller is a luminous writer . . . Gazing into these multiple private Pippas is like opening a series of Russian dolls, each intricately wrought, self-contained, and self-revealing.--The Observer (London)
Miller's astute, beautifully nuanced novel explores the unpredictable consequences of choosing to live a safe, but emotionally compromised life.--Daily Mail (UK)
Like Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections without the bitterness

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780312428334
  • ISBN-10: 0312428332
  • Publisher: Picador USA
  • Publish Date: August 2009
  • Page Count: 239


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Books > Fiction > Contemporary Women
Books > Fiction > Literary

 
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