Book of Days
Personal Essays
Emily Fox Gordon

Random House
Hardcover/320 pages
ISBN: 978-0-385-52589-3
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". . . memorable . . ."

The poignant insights of alienation and discovery.


With a college professor for a father and a socially competent and inventive mother, Emily Fox Gordon had the best and worst of times. Left to herself much of the time growing up in the safe environment of a college faculty enclave, Gordon is unleashed and imprisoned by her own feelings of alienation and insecurity.


Gordon’s sister is a very feminine girl and Gordon unsure of her own femininity as her mother urges her to explore and embrace the masculine side of her personality. Inevitably, Gordon feels conflicted and is sent to a boarding school where she feels even more outside the close feminine circle of an all girls school and then to a series of facilities where she is psychoanalyzed and treated, none of which helps her come to grips with the disquiet of her mother’s legacy of intellect over feeling.


All of this is aptly described and poignantly rendered in Gordon’s straight forward style, a style that runs like the strong central keel of the prose and from which she ventures into sublime territory with witty, pithy and memorable insights.


I found myself nodding in empathy and understanding as Gordon wended her way along the path to figuring out her own feminine nature, her fear and uncertainty about motherhood and the insecurity of writing with a purpose. It is through Gordon’s keen prose she is clearest and, when she lets herself go, through wondrous turns of phrase that she proves herself a essayist worth reading – and memorizing.


“But it wasn’t only the woman’s appearance that conveyed the impression of chronic illness. It was also the curtain left carelessly open, an apparent indifference to the reactions of others, suggesting that these two were veterans of a long siege.”


Emily Fox Gordon has been through a long siege. It is in the way she leaves the curtain carelessly open, allowing all passersby to glimpse sieges waged and won, that gives her writing a memorable and lasting presence.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell