The The Unknown Woman explores issues of modern motherhood: the challenges of juggling work and family, the mothering instinct, abandonment, choices and the secrets that people and families keep.
The central character of the novel is Lilith Grainger, 44, a Sydney Eastern Suburbs housewife who is dedicated to the smooth and efficient running of her home and family. In the process of growing her perfect family though, Lilith has somehow, inadvertently lost her way. She is beginning to feel invisible and to question the path her life has taken. Her family and friends are oblivious to her inner turmoil and largely take her for granted. Lilith’s well-meaning actions all appear to be adding up to a purpose-less life. She grapples with her existential angst and her slightly bizarre way of dealing with her dilemma provides the novel with a quirky twist.
I found many of the novel’s characters to be unlikeable, which is perhaps the point. Obsessive stay-at-home mums focused on elevating their ordinary children to the extraordinary, women trying to make life feel purposeful by creating lists of busywork. Blonde pony-tailed women in exercise gear drive their European 4WDs to pick up their over-scheduled children from expensive private schools. Lilith’s teenage daughter Olivia, is narcissistic and secretive. Her yoga friend Nikki is vacuous and unpleasant and Lilith’s mother or mother-in-law are unsupportive.
This is a great book to spark discussion for book clubs as it explores modern dilemmas, societal values and the choices that women make. Questions for bookclubs are provided on Random House’s website.
I received a free e-copy of The Unknown Woman to review from Random House via NetGalley.