I admit, to my shame, that I had not heard of Benoite Groult before reading her autobiography My Escape. Having read it I want to know more, read more of her work and, strangely enough, I feel compelled to travel to Brittany to visit again the seashore of my childhood that both Benoite and I share.
My Escape is written in a way that reveals the author’s voice, the author’s mind. It is written in a style that is intelligent and thoughtful, warm and humorous, both thought provoking and touching. Although written by a woman who is clearly very well read, a true academic, My Escape is utterly accessible and reveals a woman who has lived a life that stretches beyond the world of Academia.
Groult’s style of writing is liquid, beautiful. Her descriptions of the landscape of her life–Brittany, Ireland–are breathtaking and I found myself remembering my own childhood holidays in Brittany through her words: ‘the smell of seaweed, the silvery sounds of the water as it gently separates into a thousand rivulets,’ ‘without any age except the age of the world at this precise instant.’
Intertwined between tales of her life, her husbands, her children and grandchildren is the constant theme of feminism, the changing role of women in the world. Her feminism is the feminism of every woman, the feminism of everyday life over a period of years–from her childhood to the present day. She does not approach feminism from a dry academic position, but from the vibrant stance of a woman who has lived life to the full and who has fought for equal rights whilst being a mother, a wife, a grandmother and a professional writer.
Throughout My Escape Groult’s voice is filled with warmth and humour. Her honesty in describing her relationships is incredibly moving, but, at the same time, matter of fact. I found myself smiling in empathy as she recounted her relationship with her grandchildren and weeping as she told of her husbands and their love. She reveals through her words a gentle strength and determination, but also is not afraid to show the reader her vulnerability, her femininity. She is living proof that being a feminist can mean, and should mean, being a total person with strengths and weaknesses, living life to the full and being considered equal by the world.
My Escape is a gem of a book, written by a woman who is an example to all of us–not because she is perfect, but because she is real, working tirelessly for the cause of Feminism whilst living and loving, doubting and struggling. She is a woman of passion and commitment and a woman I would love to meet.