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Saturday, October 05, 2013

The Widow by Nola Duncan and Libby Harkness

When Nola Duncan's husband died, she looked through his papers, and she found a Pandora's Box.  This contained love letters to a young married student who her husband was supervising, evidence of a long-standing affair.  The letters contained sickly, erotic missives, romantic poems, and analysis of the affair, which Michael called the 'Great Love'.  Duncan didn't have any idea about the affair, and she's put many of the letters into this book.

Although Duncan's husband is dead, she is certainly having her revenge by letting everyone know about these letters, and she found that the book was also cathartic.  I found it strange to read, because she analyses the history of the affair through the letters, and she practically studies every letter and poem.  Libby Harkness's writing is easier to read than her husband's weird letters, which compared the affair to Abelard's and Heloises's affair and were sometimes quite blasphemous and hypocritical.  He also complained about his wife in the letters.

The affair and the evidence of Michael's former womanising was even more of a shock to Duncan because Michael was extremely religious.  He was a Church counsellor and a good member of the parish.  However, he moralises about the affair in his letters, discussing how God would feel about it - apparently he'd be very approving!

He also took the risk of losing his job, of course, and Duncan discusses this in the book.  This was probably part of the attraction. Probably, the young student also found this gave Michael added charisma, because he took this risk for her.

It's an interesting book, because of its study of how a man can live two lives and manipulate and seduce younger women, but it's a disturbing and sad story.

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