"But now I know what happened to all those women I looked up to, the producers and directors who fell over the edge of the world just as their reputations began to take shape. It's near-impossible to reconcile an only moderately successful freelance career like mine with family life. As we can't afford childcare on retainer, we've decided that it makes more sense for me to stay at home - here, with the baskets of dirty laundry, the shopping lists, the appointments penciled into the kitchen calendar - while Ben profits from the plum spots vacated by female colleagues. So this is my lot now. It was always going to come down to this, if only I'd thought about it hard enough. If I'd thought about it hard enough, would I have made the same choices? Yes, yes, of course. But still.
. . . .
"Isn't Ben good?" his mother will say to me in a low admiring voice when she and Dirk visit, after Ben has carved his roast, a plate of meat that will have been marinading in its bath of liquor and herbs for twenty-four hours, and which will have kept him busy all morning while I was changing the nappies and popping out for emergency garlic and laying the table and filling the water glasses. And I think of all the little meals that fall to me, which are eaten without anyone really noticing the crispness of the potatoes or the bite of the green beans: the modest everyday dishes that pass entirely without comment, competently executed and palatable. Isn't Ben good? I suppose he is.
. . . .
"The offer is made so casually, it's barely even a kindness. And yet at this moment, at this point in my life, there's nothing more appealing than being excused some of the endless responsibility. Five minutes, half and hour of not being in charge: it's hard to explain how wonderful this can be.
. . . .
"Emma is the engine of this home, the person who propels it forward, keeps everyone fed and clothed and healthy and happy - and yet she's entirely alone within it, and getting lonelier with every item ticked off her checklist. This is what it comes down to: the flat-out invisible drudgery of family maintenance, the vanishing of personality as everyone else's accrues. You never asked for this, did you, Emma? You didn't know it would be quite like this.
Ah, well. We all have our crosses to bear.
. . . .
"I think of an old picture book I've recently read to Christopher: a jaunt on the train, a short walk to a sandy beach, rock-pooling and paddling and kite-flying and a picnic on a rug, and then nodding off contently on the return leg, pockets full of shells and sand. No one forgets the sandwiches, no one gets sunburned or stung by wasps, no one slips and falls in fully clothed. Where is this beach? How can I get there?
- Her, Harriet Lane
"Christian charity, the compassion of centuries of civilisation, fell from her like useless ornaments, revealing her bare, arid soul. She needed to feed and protect her own children. Nothing else mattered any more.
. . . .
What separates or unites the people is not their language, their laws, their customs, their principles, but the way they hold their knife and fork.
- Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky
"June 1942: Never forget that the war will be over and the entire historical side will fade away. Try to create as much as possible: things, debates . . . that will interest people in 1952 or 2052. Reread Tolstoy. Inimitable descriptions but not historical. Insist on that. For example, in Dolce, the Germans in the village. In Captivity, Jacqueline's first Communion and Arlette Corail's party."
- Diary of Irene Nemirovsky