She opened her eyes and looked at his face close up, seeing and loving with a great rush of tenderness the tired lines beneath the eyes, and the delicate, high-bridged nose, and the mouth, the mouth she had been kissing with such abandon; and she had never noticed before that the teeth were just slightly protruding, like a rabbits, and in her mind she said- My bunny, oh, my darling bunny, and then she half laughed as he touched his nose gently against hers and kissed her again. pushing back passion with playfulness.
Madeleine L’Engle’s novel, A Winter’s Love was first published in 1957, this must be noted because to the modern reader the ‘forbidden’ situations within’ are common place today. Lovers living together in sin, older and unmarried- these things were shocking at one time. Affairs are the stuff of soap operas and talk shows, but there was still a naivete in full grown women, such as we encounter with Emily Bowen. With her marriage as frigid as her surroundings, her husband Courtney (Court) reeling from the loss of his teaching job as a professor and focused on writing a novel on a ‘forced’ sabbatical in Switzerland, the family is drifting. Rather than turning to his wife, admitting his failings, he chooses instead to lick his wounds in privacy and erect a wall keeping his children and wife out. Being the ‘good little woman’ she’s been raised to be, Emily tries to go accept this farce as normal but deep down she is resentful. How better things would be if he would just let her in, after-all, for any marriage to work both partners must embrace the good. the bad and the ugly between them.
Still beautiful and vibrant, she is a woman of passions and finds a soft place to fall in the arms of Abe, someone whose meant something to her in the past, but this thing between is growing stronger, harder to hide when her eldest daughter is visiting with her friend in tow. It isn’t long before Emily is seeing herself as wanton, realizing she isn’t much different from women like Gertrude when it comes to her needs and desires. Women she once judged as shameful, those whom flaunt convention. What happens when she too must make a choice? How can she take what her heart wants when it would cost her family, and worse likely devastate her broken, deeply unhappy husband?
The reader is privy to her inner turmoil and is present as she carries on an ‘illicit’ affair under the watchful eyes of others. Regardless of the times, there will always be a hunger for human beings to connect emotionally. The moment one spouse turns away from another, severing intimacy becomes like a poison in any marriage. Emily has been a staunch defender of her husband, despite his failures but she is lonely, angry, conflicted. While Abe is able to give her more than her husband can, currently swallowed by his depression, is it real? Can she truly cut her husband out, like some cancer, rather than hoping he will once again come alive to her, be present in their marriage? How much of our happiness must we sacrifice, is it any more selfish to want to be loved than it is to for our partner to denies us basic emotional needs?
One thing is certain, people don’t like to think about infidelity too much. It casts far too many shadows on our own relationships. No one wants to be the one betrayed, and yet it’s hard not to understand the loneliness of being in a marriage when your spouse has absented themselves. It’s always said women are ‘feeling creatures’ but truly, we all are. Everyone needs communion with another, or else- why marry at all? Why be in any sort of relationship? Outsiders will always gossip and judge what they will, because it’s easier than examining your own marriage. Emily is loyal, but she is falling in love with another man, deeply. He is giving her everything Court is denying her but is that enough reason to leap into the unknown? To divorce even?
While this is slow at times, considering it’s original publication date it’s much easier to immerse oneself into the heaviness of the subject. Shame, betrayal, choices, mistakes and all the what ifs… is the glory in remaining loyal and denying yourself happiness? Is there more glory in taking what the heart wants, even if it costs others dearly, maybe your own children? Just what will Emily do?
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Open Road Integrated Media