The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone by Tennessee Williams
I picked up this book from a library display last week. I didn't know that Williams wrote novels (this one is a novella, I guess) as well as plays so wanted to see how it was compared to his plays.
The story is about a middle aged actress Karen, who used to be an exceptionally beautiful woman and, following her retirement from stage and loss of her husband, settles down in Rome to avoid her usual society in the US. She has trouble adjusting her new life and coming to terms with the fact that she is neither young nor as beautiful as she used to be anymore . While acting, those were the qualities which kept her on top of her career; however, the realisation that she needs to reinvent herself as something other than a beautiful celebrity is a crucial point in her life. Meanwhile, there are young, good looking Italian men around her, who are willing to offer their company in return for material gains. Although she falls for one of them, Paolo, she keeps struggling with the fact that she now needs to 'pay' for a man's company. It is a kind of 'coming of age' story: middle aged and accepting the facts of life.
Williams writes beautifully; poetic without being pretentious or forced or imposing. I like the few plays of his that I have read but in this book, he proves that his talent is not limited by drama. His characters are real and even more so are their struggles and pains.
Couple of quotes from the book:10/10 KitKats!There are intervals when a life becomes clouded over by a sense of irreality, when definition is lost, when the rational will, or what passed for it before, has given up control, or the pretence of it. At such times there is a sense of drifting, if not drowning, in a universe of turbulently rushing fluids or vapours....
When the time comes that nobody can desire me for myself, I think I would rather not be desired at all.