A Season in Hell: A Memoir

Marilyn French, Author Alfred A. Knopf $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-679-45509-7
From 1992 through part of 1996, French endured a horrific battle with esophageal cancer and a ""virtual return from the dead."" Every possible health-related indignity is recounted here as she tells the reader far more about her hellish ordeal than most will want to know. The author takes great pains to ventilate about every unpleasantness she has endured (from male M.D.'s who ""belittle"" French by calling her a ""tough lady,"" to ""obtuse"" book reviewers who fail to appreciate her writing, as well as the quotidian irritations of the world at large). Thankfully, she does express gratitude to her devoted children and her caring, high-profile female friends (Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer, etc.). This Job's litany of horror is, however, a nightmare endured by a wealthy, much-honored literary giant, and a little acknowledgment of the many who suffer similar catastrophes without the status or financial wherewithal would have been nice. Although brief glimmers of growth and self-introspection appear every 40 or 50 pages, far more often the reader is presented with the author's calendar activity list, which resemble afterthoughts. Only one in five esophageal cancer victims survives, so it cannot be denied that French beat the odds. But such a talented writer should have known that a prolonged rant would not inspire others facing similar hardships. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/31/1998
Release date: 09/01/1998
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