The Small Widow, by Janet McNeill
The Small Widow
Julia’s husband Harold dies suddenly, leaving her with four children, five grandchildren and no identity of her own.
Her life has been lived “inside the house year after year, waiting for Harold to come home”, and she now questions “what to do with my time . . . apart from bridge and the hairdresser and the library and getting threepence off at the supermarket”. But McNeill is no “small widow”, and her sharply- observed portrayals of home and family life are reminiscent of any Elizabeth Bowen novel, with tensions simmering beneath a veneer of everyday respectability.
First published in 1967, McNeill addresses many concerns that would be tackled by the women’s movement of the 1970s – in particular, the restrictions placed on women by traditional notions of marriage and family.
As a result, her themes may seem a little dated, but this is less the fault of McNeill and more a testament to the success of the campaigners she foreshadowed.