The Teatime Reader Blog Review - A Large Harmonium

Reviewed by: Naomi Brun

Janey and Hector Erlicksen are fortysomething university professors in Wininpeg, Manitoba - she concentrates on contemporary literature in the English department, he is writing an opera and teaches in the Music department. They have an enviable marraige, full of friendship and passion. Janey and Hector have a four year old son, Max, who peppers the novel with periodic bouts of cuteness but is largely absent at playdates or in childcare. They love Max, but he is somewhat of a bit player in their adult-oriented lives. Their main priorities are each other and the microcosm of the university, fulfilling Freud's mandate that adult life should be about love and work. Nevertheless, Janey finds herself at a loss, starting projects she never finishes, worrying needlessly about her husband's loyalty, and feeling unnecessarily awkward when she interacts with anyone who is not her husband. Janey is a lovably vulnerable character in the tradition of Bridget Jones or Kate Reddy. Although not in a fully fledged depression, she is certainly in some sort of crisis, and A Large Harmonium follows Janey over the course of a year as she struggles to find herself again.

A Large Harmonium does an excellent job of capturing the displacement felt by many women in their thirties and forties. Told in a highly conversational, almost breezy style, the novel is funny in a fairly understated way and paints a very real portrait of academic life. The novel will resonate with fans of Elizabeth Berg, Laurie Colwin and other writers who handle the passages of women's lives with warmth and humour. 

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