The Middle Age of Mrs. Eliot deals with the difficult adjustment of a popular, elegant English society woman to the loss of a beloved husband and to the subsequent loss of home, income, friends, and even identity. In the first section of the book, appropriately called “Humpty Dumpty,” Meg Eliot is introduced in all of her splendor: managing committees, collecting porcelain, giving parties, and preparing to accompany her successful husband on a business trip to the East. Even her apprehensions about travel, intensified by the solitary expanses of the desert, which is below them for hours, and her husband’s admission that he deeply regrets their having no children do not seriously affect her consciousness of being one of the fortunate. When they stop in a Far Eastern airport restaurant, in an instant her life is shattered. Heroically throwing himself in front of a high government official whom he admires, Bill foils an assassination attempt but loses his life. During her stay with the British consul and his wife, Meg has her first realization of her new isolation, as well as her first experience of powerlessness, when she attempts in vain to interfere in the process by which the conspirators are summarily hanged.
Back in England, Meg must face the fact that her husband, a frequent gambler, has left her little but debts. It is clear that she must sell her house, her furnishings, even her beloved porcelain collection. Although her husband’s best friend and her brother David Parker offer her financial help, Meg is determined to make a life for herself. Confident that her powers of persuasion, the charm which has melted dowagers and...
(The entire section is 680 words.)