Hilma Wolitzer

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Raymond Sokolov

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Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 196

If Emma Bovary were alive in New York's borough of Queens, she might be Hilma Wolitzer's narrator Paulette [of In the Flesh]….

Paulette is a pregnant bride and would-be poet, a spunky, ironic, suffering suffragette of the spirit. She is a big girl and will win the hardest heart with her stoical, sharp-eyed patter. (p. 110)

Paulette narrates this diary of a very sane and humorous housewife with the generous gift for pointed everyday language that is Hilma Wolitzer's precious skill. In this second novel, Wolitzer writes like a feminine Kafka, a gentle yet mordant chronicler of the sinister side of "the soap opera of adult lives."

Her Paulette sounds at first like Molly Goldberg's daughter Rosalie, but the dark note always echoes behind the draperies…. On one level, this is successful chatter, good, wry Jewish shtik, but Wolitzer's art runs deeper, implying a world of pain and aspiration underneath the studied and malign banality. This is an utterly poised and fine achievement, as good in its unostentatious way as anything in recent fiction. (p. 112)

Raymond Sokolov, "A Sane Housewife," in Newsweek (copyright 1977, by Newsweek, Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Vol. XC, No. 12, September 19, 1977, pp. 110, 112.

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