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A girl comes of age in the radical 1960s in this "beautifully written" novel by the groundbreaking author of The Women's Room (Kate Mosse). It's 1968 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jess Leighton, the daughter of a temperamental painter and a proto-feminist Harvard professor, is struggling to make sense of her world amid racial tensions, Vietnam War protests, anti-government r A girl comes of age in the radical 1960s in this "beautifully written" novel by the groundbreaking author of The Women's Room (Kate Mosse). It's 1968 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jess Leighton, the daughter of a temperamental painter and a proto-feminist Harvard professor, is struggling to make sense of her world amid racial tensions, Vietnam War protests, anti-government rage, her own burgeoning sexuality, and bad relationships. With more options than her mother's generation, but no role model for creating the life she desires, Jess experiments with sex and psychedelic drugs as she searches for happiness on her own terms. In the midst of joining and fleeing a commune, growing organic vegetables, and operating a sustainable restaurant, Jess grapples with the legacy of her mother's generation while building a future for herself, and for the postmodern woman. "French's meticulous and affecting tale of the forging of one woman's conscience encompasses thoughtful portraits of 'love children, ' from peace activists to members of unconventional families, and a forthright critique of the counterculture that puts today's wars, struggles for equality, and environmental troubles into sharp perspective" (Booklist).


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A girl comes of age in the radical 1960s in this "beautifully written" novel by the groundbreaking author of The Women's Room (Kate Mosse). It's 1968 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jess Leighton, the daughter of a temperamental painter and a proto-feminist Harvard professor, is struggling to make sense of her world amid racial tensions, Vietnam War protests, anti-government r A girl comes of age in the radical 1960s in this "beautifully written" novel by the groundbreaking author of The Women's Room (Kate Mosse). It's 1968 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jess Leighton, the daughter of a temperamental painter and a proto-feminist Harvard professor, is struggling to make sense of her world amid racial tensions, Vietnam War protests, anti-government rage, her own burgeoning sexuality, and bad relationships. With more options than her mother's generation, but no role model for creating the life she desires, Jess experiments with sex and psychedelic drugs as she searches for happiness on her own terms. In the midst of joining and fleeing a commune, growing organic vegetables, and operating a sustainable restaurant, Jess grapples with the legacy of her mother's generation while building a future for herself, and for the postmodern woman. "French's meticulous and affecting tale of the forging of one woman's conscience encompasses thoughtful portraits of 'love children, ' from peace activists to members of unconventional families, and a forthright critique of the counterculture that puts today's wars, struggles for equality, and environmental troubles into sharp perspective" (Booklist).

30 review for The Love Children

  1. 5 out of 5

    Veronica

    Marilyn French, acclaimed author of "The Women's Room" died on May 2, 2009 months before the release of her last novel, "The Love Children." In some ways it is poetic that this is her last novel. From what I have heard from women whose lives were touched by "The Women's Room," this last novel is a good capstone on French's legacy. The novel revolves around the life of Jess Leighton, a teen whose life epitomizes the changes brought about by the anti-war, feminist and civil rights movements of the Marilyn French, acclaimed author of "The Women's Room" died on May 2, 2009 months before the release of her last novel, "The Love Children." In some ways it is poetic that this is her last novel. From what I have heard from women whose lives were touched by "The Women's Room," this last novel is a good capstone on French's legacy. The novel revolves around the life of Jess Leighton, a teen whose life epitomizes the changes brought about by the anti-war, feminist and civil rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Part of me didn't like this novel at all. I felt the conclusion was too weak and sad. Yet after stewing about the novel for a few weeks, I think it may be one of the most honest ways to answer the question, "What did happen to all the former hippies and flower children? How did all those changes impact the youth and their life decisions?" The answer just might be, it wasn't pretty. As a Gen Xer, whose own generation is blazing our own paths, and peeking over my shoulder to the generations behind me, I see it all too clear now. The generation of "The Love Children" broke with "tradition" so cleanly that we can never go back and in the process we lost any roadmap to life. Yes, we still have traditionalists who long for those glory days, but we all know that we won't go back. We have eaten from the proverbial apple. Jess' struggles and challenges work to demystify that era. Having your mother embrace the feminist within her can be daunting to a teen, especially when she must face the asshatery of her father when he decides to take out his frustration on you thru verbal abuse. Entering college is head spinning enough but add to that the polarizing politics that including being anti-war to radical lesbianism and you have one confused liberal young woman. Now here is where I thought that things got to be too much like a caricature, but I put my feminist historian's hat on and thought, you know what? Things were crazy messed up back then. The government was doing an excellent job at infiltrating organizations, even if not especially campus organizations, which only raised the suspicions of leaders towards people who looked like they might be moles. After Jess drops out of school and finds herself living on a commune, the last of her youthful idealism is worn away by how easy it is for peace loving pacifists fall into patriarchal roles once some smell the scent of power. Was French disillusioned with that era? Was she tired of my generation's romanticism of that era? I wish I knew and I may email my friend who pointed French's publishers towards this blog. There are novels and even biographies that post-Title IX, post-Roe feminists may read and think, "If only she had been born in our time, she would had been awesome!" We look at how the woman in the story ended up far short of where we think she should had ended her life. Instead of being a Gloria Steinem or Dolores Huerta, she gave up her writing career to be a good wife. Instead of leading the revolution, she stayed home to raise her children. Jess' happy ending isn't one out of a feminist fairy tale, yet it shouldn't be one we toss aside with my initial conclusion of weak. But what does a feminist "happily ever after" look like? Is it growing up to be President of NOW or is it being able to lead a fairly normal life with feminist awareness? I think that question is hard to answer for those of us, like me, who believe that being a feminist means being an activist and especially hard for those who believe you need to keep climbing some invisible ladder to "the top." And now I know why French was revered as a genius of feminist writing and of feminism. Her last novel is an excellent read for young feminists who might think they have it all planned out, to show that plan or no plan, life throws you punches and sometimes lands them square in the gut. It's a great read for those of is approaching midlife (oh dear goddess that's me!) who are reevaluating "what could had been" and if our bad decisions were the result of unfeminist thinking. I suspect this book may be a salve on any feminists from "The Love Children" era who think that fell far short of the promise/expectations. Just as I tell my students, not everyone gets into med school and not everyone is meant to be a doctor – Not everyone is meant to be Marilyn French and there's no shame in that.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    I was disappointed by this book. While I expected the story to be some what predictable and it was-teenage girl becoming aware of the world, going to college only to drop out and join a commune followed by motherhood and eventual marriage/career- it was also uneven. The last chapter took the main character from age 25 (in 1980 or so) to the present day. This meant that the fates of the characters we spent 300 pages getting to know were summed up in just a sentence or two: she wrote a book, he op I was disappointed by this book. While I expected the story to be some what predictable and it was-teenage girl becoming aware of the world, going to college only to drop out and join a commune followed by motherhood and eventual marriage/career- it was also uneven. The last chapter took the main character from age 25 (in 1980 or so) to the present day. This meant that the fates of the characters we spent 300 pages getting to know were summed up in just a sentence or two: she wrote a book, he opened a store etc. I have noticed that many authors seem to have difficulties ending a book, especially if it is about a person's life, they start off with lots of detail but then it sort of speeds up about 2/3 of the way through but this book took it to the extreme. We read a tremendous amount about a 10 year period in the woman's life but then had virtually no details on what happened after that. Perhaps it would have been better just to have had it end with her becoming a faux Alice Waters with plenty of life ahead of her than to try and sum up 30 years in just a few pages. I also found the writing style to be almost expository. There were few detailed descriptions of anything-not the people, not the farm, not the weather, nothing. "Mom and I had shrimp and peas and rice for dinner that night." "She was old, white haired and wrinkled." It was difficult to form any sort of emotional attachment to a character and story than was so plainly written. We never had to think or wonder about what Jess thought because she told us: "The kids grew, our house was comfortable, we loved our work, and we felt that was the most people could get from life. It was enough." Everything was spelled out for the reader, which discouraged the deeper thought about life that I think was the book's goal. Nearly every chapter left me wanting to tell Marilyn French to "show, don't tell!". It is easy to want to like this book because of Marilyn French's earlier works but unfortunately, it falls flat.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eshaneh

    I really liked this book, but I was not crazy about the ending. The book made me reflect on how far women's rights has come since my mother's generation. And actually, I'm not so sure we've come that far. I really liked this book, but I was not crazy about the ending. The book made me reflect on how far women's rights has come since my mother's generation. And actually, I'm not so sure we've come that far.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Laurel-Rain

    Coming of age during the 1960s in Cambridge, Massachusetts, our fictional narrator, Jess Leighton, tells her story in the first person and gives us a glimpse of what that experience was like--not only for her, but for a generation of similar young people--by revealing in great detail her thoughts, feelings, and actions. With a feminist mother and an artist father, one might imagine that life would be perfect for Jess. But the bitter animosities between her parents color her childhood and teen yea Coming of age during the 1960s in Cambridge, Massachusetts, our fictional narrator, Jess Leighton, tells her story in the first person and gives us a glimpse of what that experience was like--not only for her, but for a generation of similar young people--by revealing in great detail her thoughts, feelings, and actions. With a feminist mother and an artist father, one might imagine that life would be perfect for Jess. But the bitter animosities between her parents color her childhood and teen years. By then, her father has departed to the family cabin in Vermont, while Jess and her mother stay in Cambridge. Through the pages of "The Love Children (Classic Feminist Writers)," I could relate to many of Jess's thoughts and feelings, having come of age in that same time period. Our experiences were different in the sense that the West and East Coasts were different, but the same passion, fervor, and commitment to the causes of that time fueled our actions. An abrupt departure from college before finishing led Jess to a commune in rural Massachusetts. A change in the dynamics of the commune from egalitarian to male domination, characterized by power struggles, led to her exit from that life. But settled down again in Vermont, after discovering an unexpected pregnancy, Jess turns to another kind of life and a passion she has discovered over the years: organic farming and life as a chef/restaurateur. In the beginning, the story unfolded very slowly, but then seemingly sped up quickly in the last 1/3 of the book. Almost as if the author were hastening us toward the conclusion and the resolution of Jess's life. I would have preferred the pace to be a bit speedier in the beginning and would have liked to savor the ending more. Overall, though, I enjoyed the emotional connection I felt to the characters, especially Jess. Therefore, four stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adrienne Urbanski

    (This review was also printed in the summer issue '09 of Bust Magazine.) Marilyn French’s first novel, The Women’s Room, released during the women’s movement of the seventies, focused on a submissive housewife who divorces her husband to find her own life. The book quickly went on to become a feminist classic as it embodied many of the issues at the heart of the movement. The Love Children picks up where The Women’s Room left off, exploring the lives of the daughters born to the women who achieved (This review was also printed in the summer issue '09 of Bust Magazine.) Marilyn French’s first novel, The Women’s Room, released during the women’s movement of the seventies, focused on a submissive housewife who divorces her husband to find her own life. The book quickly went on to become a feminist classic as it embodied many of the issues at the heart of the movement. The Love Children picks up where The Women’s Room left off, exploring the lives of the daughters born to the women who achieved new liberation during the sixties and seventies, finding that limitations exist even with their generation’s new found freedoms. As French sadly passed away this May due to heart failure, she was unfortunately never able to see the novel in print. The book focuses on Jess, a girl trying to find herself in a world in which she still faces limitations due to her gender. When her feminist mother divorces her overbearing and self absorbed father, Jess’s life is thrown for a loop. She struggles to etch out her own sense of identity; experimenting with drugs, sexuality, and career paths all in a bid to find a fulfilling existence. After being mistreated in college due to her gender and sexuality, she abandons school trying to find a more suitable life in a commune, only to find that blatant sexism exists there as well. Eventually Jess is able to find fulfillment in organic cooking and a partner who will ultimately accept her as an equal. The Love Children is valuable in its exploration and depiction of the many ways in which gender can still be a limitation, even within a supposedly more enlightened society. (Adrienne Urbanski)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cmbrooks

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Back to the 60s for this novel as Jessamine finishes high school among her friends, her difficult family and their drugs of choice. Her university career is short and she moves to a rural commune with her friend Sandy. Disillusionment ensues in due course and finally Jess makes a life for herself as a chef and raises her child, finding true love along the way. An easy read of no great depth, but enjoyable enough.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Brigitte

    En weer zo'n boek waar je geen afscheid van kunt nemen en, naarmate het einde van het boek nadert, steeds langzamer gaat lezen. Het levensverhaal van een jong meisje dat opgroeit in de V.S. in de roerige periode eind jaren '60-begin jaren '70 van love & peace, experimenteren met drugs, anti-oorlogsdemonstraties, communes en de opkomst van de vrouwenbeweging. Aanrader ! En weer zo'n boek waar je geen afscheid van kunt nemen en, naarmate het einde van het boek nadert, steeds langzamer gaat lezen. Het levensverhaal van een jong meisje dat opgroeit in de V.S. in de roerige periode eind jaren '60-begin jaren '70 van love & peace, experimenteren met drugs, anti-oorlogsdemonstraties, communes en de opkomst van de vrouwenbeweging. Aanrader !

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    This final novel is a thought-provoking invitation to re-evaluate the trials and tribulations of coming of age during the 1960's with forethought of present day social injustices. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who can relate with philosophical investigations of human life. This final novel is a thought-provoking invitation to re-evaluate the trials and tribulations of coming of age during the 1960's with forethought of present day social injustices. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone who can relate with philosophical investigations of human life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Pat Bennett

    Another wonderful novel by Marilyn French. The Women's Room will always be my favorite, but this one is really good. A true reminder of life in the 60's and 70's. Every woman should read French. Another wonderful novel by Marilyn French. The Women's Room will always be my favorite, but this one is really good. A true reminder of life in the 60's and 70's. Every woman should read French.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sherry Porter

    I haven't read this book but I am curious... it is published by The Feminist Press. I haven't read this book but I am curious... it is published by The Feminist Press.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Hella

    Wel met plezier gelezen, maar uiteindelijk toch niet geweldig. Veel te veel tell don't show en met zevenmijlslaarzen door de tijd. Wel met plezier gelezen, maar uiteindelijk toch niet geweldig. Veel te veel tell don't show en met zevenmijlslaarzen door de tijd.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jill Nojack

    As books by Marilyn French go, this is really just okay. I always enjoy her insights, but it doesn't have the same power as her other books. It's quieter, I think. As books by Marilyn French go, this is really just okay. I always enjoy her insights, but it doesn't have the same power as her other books. It's quieter, I think.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Young

    This book was so captivating, I didn't want it to end. Do yourself a favor and read it! :) This book was so captivating, I didn't want it to end. Do yourself a favor and read it! :)

  14. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    This book isn't perfect (felt like there was at least one major plot hole), but I loved it. This book isn't perfect (felt like there was at least one major plot hole), but I loved it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sophiene

    I love Marilyn French and I kept reading in this one. It's maybe not her greatest, but her way of writing keeps pulling me in. I love Marilyn French and I kept reading in this one. It's maybe not her greatest, but her way of writing keeps pulling me in.

  16. 5 out of 5

    lucy black

    reads like an actual memoir. so the plot is not so tidy and sometimes it's boring or bizarre, but that is like a real life right? reads like an actual memoir. so the plot is not so tidy and sometimes it's boring or bizarre, but that is like a real life right?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Deidre

    pleasant story.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Alexa Hamilton

    Seriously sappy at the end. Feminist, but sappy. A good note for Marilyn French to end on.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jenifer

    Feminist literature at its very best!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    I don't always love French's writing style, but I think her honesty, empathy, and authenticity makes up for the sometimes stilted writing. Overall, I'd say this novel is good but not great. Probably not something I'll pick up again, but certainly something I enjoyed. Maybe this just says something about myself, but I always find myself reflected in the women of French's writing, I don't know if that's good or bad. I do have a bone to pick with this book: it is painfully heterosexual. I understand I don't always love French's writing style, but I think her honesty, empathy, and authenticity makes up for the sometimes stilted writing. Overall, I'd say this novel is good but not great. Probably not something I'll pick up again, but certainly something I enjoyed. Maybe this just says something about myself, but I always find myself reflected in the women of French's writing, I don't know if that's good or bad. I do have a bone to pick with this book: it is painfully heterosexual. I understand that even after her 'experiments' with women, Jess is still straight but I did think the choice to describe that experience as 'distasteful' (I think that was the word choice, possibly also 'repugnant' but don't quote me on that), was a little well... distasteful. We get it Marilyn, just because you let your college roommate go down on you're straight-- you don't have to be rude about it! And the scene where Jess is chased from the GSA by the mean dykes was kind of ridiculous, and unnecessary. I would agree that the ending of this novel is weak, mostly because it's always a little shocking to me to see the kind of shit straight women are willing to put up with from straight men-- especially when its really feminist women. I guess I just fundamentally will never understand straight people.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Julianna

    Characters that come to life pretty quickly in a voice that's delightful to read. The people fall between the ages of my and my mother's, so not quite the experience of the people I know. Characters that come to life pretty quickly in a voice that's delightful to read. The people fall between the ages of my and my mother's, so not quite the experience of the people I know.

  22. 5 out of 5

    lena

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bob Cat

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lianne

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

  28. 5 out of 5

    Georgia

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lydia

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carey

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