Somehow Herb ended up with the most spectacular woman. I’ve known Pippa Lee for a quarter of a century, but I’ll never really know her. She’s a mystery, a cipher, something which nearly extinct these days: a person not controlled by ambition or greed or a crass need for attention, but by a desire to experience life completely, and to make life a little easier for the people around her. Pippa has nobility. Pippa has style. – quipped family friend, Pippa admirer, Sam Sapiro.
Pippa is a 50-year-old woman who has everything. Married to Herb, an editor, bore him a son, Ben, a lawyer who is easy to love; and a daughter, Grace, a war photographer, which Pippa reserve her affection. Herb and Pippa had recently sold their home and moved to a retirement village. Except that strange thing is happening around the house, Pippa woke up to find cooked food on the table one day; and on another morning, chocolate cakes on the dining table. The house is bolted from the inside. Pippa also found cigarettes butt in the car. Herb suggested that they install a camera in the house. What Pippa found out from the hidden camera was beyond her own comprehension, except hidden in her memory was an old self that is waiting to surface….
‘Courtship is Romantic. Marriage is ….. an act of will.’ said Pippa.
Pippa has a dark past. Her father, Des was a church minister. Mother, Suky is a home maker with a drug problem and her four brothers. Pippa has always been Suky’s favourite. Pippa look set to live an uneventful suburban life, when an encounter with teacher and church goer Mr. Brown result in Pippa to leave her home and went off to New York City to live with her Aunt Trish and her crazy friend, Kat. Soon Pippa’s life was fraught with problems that her only wish was a chance to be good again, to be accepted by her mother. She stumbled upon her chance to do good when she married Herb.
In spite of all my devotion in the early days of my marriage, there were moments when, like a wolf domesticated by humans, I caught a scent of my old ways and felt hemmed in. A beautiful young man walking by on the street, the sight of teenagers high in the park, sometimes threw me off balance;. I could feel myself teeter on the edge of my new existence and imagined the thrill of kissing a man I barely know, or the sharp kick of amphetamine between my eyes. But I never strayed.
I did not warm up to the Pippa character. However, the idea of a dark past of a seemingly perfect woman living a good life, is a powerful one. This is the strongest selling point of the book. It appeals to women who might have a wild past, a hormonal charged past, unbridled happiness and freedom which is long buried. It is a novel about how a woman can morph herself into a new self to adapt to the new life she created, she can morph beyond recognition of her old self. How it may be possible to have the past coming back to haunt her. How it is so easy to fall into the false security of marriage. How complex it is to make mother-daughter relationship works, and how it is possible to find love again after losing it. At the end, Pippa Lee embraces the unknown future wholeheartedly.
I feel an unfamiliar story unfurling in me. I have no idea how it will go, I don’t know who I will be in it. I am filled with fear and happiness.
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is a drama film written and directed by Rebecca Miller based on her own novel. It stars Robin Wright Penn as the title character. It has been listed as one of the movies shown at the Berlin Festival 2009 in February 2009 as an off-contestant. The film boasts of strong cast. Here’s the cast list:
- Keanu Reeves as Chris, Pippa’s lover (The man can’t act! But he is so good to watch and he doesn’t aged, my all-time favourite 8)).
- Robin Wright Penn as Pippa Lee
- Alan Arkin as Herb Lee, Pippa’s husband
- Monica Bellucci as Gigi, Herb’s first wife
- Julianne Moore as Kat, a lesbian novelist
- Maria Bello as Suky, Pippa’s mother shown in flashback sequences. Bello replaced Maggie Gyllenhaal
- Blake Lively as Teenage Pippa Lee, Pippa in flashback sequences
- Winona Ryder as Sandra, the woman Herb leaves Pippa for.
What I like most about the book: the book is narrated in short unnumbered chapters. Sometimes as long as 10 pages, others as short as 2. It’s an emotional thriller and roller coaster that can be read in one sitting. The story seems flimsy but when you put down the book, the after effect is haunting.
What I like least about the book: You either love or hate Pippa. Pippa had no talent, easy to please, unambitious, made one mistake after another, and with good fortune she married well. The book ending is an abrupt joke. A disconnect from the dark and realistic development of the story so far, only to end it in such an abrupt way.