Grace Caldwell was the young woman who stood out in her community, for her wealth, her athleticism and her confident, striking appearance. She was beloved of her family and suffered little in the way of childhood traumas or incidents that might darken her satisfied sense of life and herself. She was also a girl and later a woman with the sex drive of what at the time was considered- a man. More than that, she acted on it and what began in youth became a part of the rest of her life, that is the addition of a secret sexual fire and behavior that smoldered through her position as nothing less than wife, mother and social leader of the town.
The Rage to Live is a book that accurately and presciently tells of an era of transition. In that Pennsylvania small town, the country and the heroine; a transition was occuring wherein the upper classes would no longer be secure to behave however they chose. It was also an era when over-indulgence itself was in the process of entering the mainstream, i.e. was democratized. That did not lead to an increased forgiveness in the part of the newly liberated, however. The old horse riding, martini drinking gentry has transformed even more over the years, but the Grace Caldwells and their trademark entitlement still can be found in various suburbs in and around the east coast and in the summers along the various coasts. Grace and her family and her fate makes for a great story, dated, but so what.
This review is from: A Rage to Live (Modern Library Classics) (Paperback)
Just finished Rage, read and re-read the A. Pope poem, from which the book title is derived. This is, indeed, a novel centered in transitions, and treats the heroine, Grace, with sensitivity and judgment. Most, like Louis Begley, who wrote the introduction, might leap to the conclusion that Grace, through her choices/dalliances, was relegated to exile in NYC. My somewhat feminist perspective is that Grace outgrew her provincial circumstances, embraced an essential part of herself, and moved on in the wake of unavoidable tragedy - almost certainly to the benefit of herself and her children. I'm not so sure much has changed in the US, especially in small towns. Rage is a good read, overly long in some places, and as mentioned, abrupt in others, in significant respects. I skimmed much of the boring dialogue and superfluous character setups, but otherwise found the novel engrossing.