REVIEW: THE GIRL PRETENDING TO READ RILKE, BY BARBARA RIDDLE

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Poised in a moment in time marked by change, Bronwen, age nineteen, is eager to begin a research summer job in Boston. And with the job comes a reunion with boyfriend Eric, a graduate student at Harvard. For the summer, they will be living in Eric’s Cambridge flat.

The 60s had brought remarkable opportunities for young women. At any other time in history, could a young woman have obtained an internship with a Harvard Junior Fellow? Before Betty Friedan’s book hit the stores, had women ever realized all of the possibilities available to them?

But Bronwen is in a state of conflict, too. She is ready for love, but she also wants her life as a scientist.

Over the next few weeks, we watch as she deals with the conflicts in her life, including a less-than-attentive boyfriend, another possible love interest, and her life of commitment to her work. Just as she is ready to complete her summer, sad news erupts. And shortly afterward, she is forced to face another obstacle to her goals.

I enjoyed engaging with this young woman as she confronted her personal and work issues. I liked how she protected herself with her Rilke collection, for as much as she loved science, a part of her clung to another kind of inner life:

“Zipping up her Army surplus parka, she bent her head into the late afternoon breeze. In the pouch-like pocket of her jacket, next to the letter, she felt for the presence of her trusty ubiquitous Rilke volume, her shield against unwanted dinner conversation….”

The Girl Pretending to Read Rilke took me back to my own younger days, when I, too, had to consider my options and make choices. Sometimes impossible choices. 4 stars.

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