Woman's Work:
Is There Life after Birth?

by Sylvia Mulholland,
327 pages,
ISBN: 0340674830

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First Novels - Ontarian Safari
by Eva Tihanyi

Sylvia Mulholland's Woman's Work (General, 328 pages, $29.95 cloth) will likely strike a chord with any woman who has juggled family, career, and home ownership and wondered in the process whether a course in time management might be not only helpful but essential. Mulholland, a Toronto lawyer and frequent contributor on women's topics to The Globe & Mail's Facts & Arguments page, knows of what she speaks. The novel is in many respects unapologetically autobiographical. Claire, the novel's protagonist, is a lawyer too. Her husband, like Mulholland's, is a plastic surgeon who used to play semi-pro hockey in Sweden. Fortunately, in this particular novel, the personal experience is put to good use.

The plot is rather simple. Claire is thirty-nine and married to Ben, who is seven years younger. After giving birth to her son Harry, she returns to work but not without trepidation. Ben has insisted on hiring as a live-in nanny Brita, with whose family he became acquainted during his stay in Sweden. She is a stereotypical Swedish beauty if there ever was one, and Claire's insecurity increases with each passing week. She hasn't been able to lose all her pre-maternity weight, she is chronically tired, falling behind at the office, worrying about a troublesome client, indulging her shopaholic tendencies, and becoming alarmingly forgetful. In the meantime, Ben and Brita are getting along far too well for Claire's comfort.

Mulholland's narrative voice is clear, confident, and at times laugh-aloud funny. The one notable weakness is in the plot itself, specifically, the resolution of the Ben and Brita relationship at the end. Fortunately, Claire herself is amusing enough to make the book a satisfying literary entertainment.


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