Book #41

Leaving the Yellow House by Saul Bellow

She had lived by delays; she had meant to stop drinking; she had put off the time, and now she had smashed her car.

At once harsh and tender, expansive and acutely funny, this is the story of an elderly and self-destructive dipsomaniac in a Western desert town, who finds herself faced with a final, impossible choice.

Bellow tells us, “you couldn’t help being fond of Hattie,” and that was quite the tragic understatement to me. I quite simply loved her as I love all women who shun their vulnerabilities, judge their neighbours, and live life entirely on their own terms.

After one too many lemonades one evening, Hattie crashes her car and suffers consequences which impact her independence. In the gloom of this situation, she begins to take stock of her life, and come to a decision on who will inherit her yellow house after she’s gone.

This was an interesting exploration of old age, loneliness, the slow yet sudden realisation of our time running out, and what that means for our fellow humans and our possessions. Bellow really has created quite a character with Hattie, and his prose is stunning, dragging us into her story, her list of predicaments, and her memories of life.