A literary novel, seeking to reveal the internal lives of a group of friends who grew up just after WWII, Barbara Raskin’s ‘Hot Flashes’ concentrates on menopausal feminist Jewish women in the USA. As such, it lacked some appeal for me. At the time of its initial publication, it was a NYT bestseller. But time hasn’t been so kind to this book as it has to other classic feminist novels. I think that’s due to its grounding in a group of women of privilege who appear to believe they are victims. These women have known no real poverty, none of the everyday challenges that characterise what most would generally understand as normal lives. It’s difficult for this reader to empathise with the whining of people who’ve lived comparatively easy lives.
This is also a very American book, a very Jewish book. Much of the detail was alien to me, a UK agnostic male, and I confess I skipped some passages out of sheer frustration.
Having said all that, the dense, clever and always apposite language of the book did engage me. The quality of the writing leaves many more modern works standing. And, yes, the emotional conflicts, the genuine sadness at the loss of a good friend, the angst of the generation all hit the mark. The sexual revolution brought about by readily available, cheap birth control in the hands of women, clearly had a profound effect on those raised in a paternalistic tradition steeped in ‘family’ values at the expense of personal liberty. But, for me, this novel lacked the universality of the themes present in Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying. It was too immersed in its own rather exclusive world.
No doubt this book will appeal to many of that generation, currently reaching the end of their lives. But I suspect it will not regain the general success it enjoyed at the time of its original release.
This book, first published in hardback in 1987, was released as an eBook this August (2016). I was offered a copy by the publisher who’d seen my review of ‘Fear of Flying’ and felt I might be interested.