The Rose Variations by Marisha Chamberlain

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Rose Variations Marisha Chamberlain
352 p, Soho Press, 1569475385
About the Book

The Rose Variations by Marisha Chamberlain, is garnering high praise from critics—“an enthralling first novel,” says James Wilcox in The New York Times Book Review.

The Rose Variations is about finding that elusive balance between career and love, security and independence. In it, we meet 25-year-old Rose MacGregor, who, in 1975, takes a temporary professorship at a Midwestern college, convinced that an exciting career as a composer lies ahead. Determined to stay independent, she struggles with love, loneliness, ambition, and the perplexing question of happiness.

The Author is frequently asked whether this book is autobiographical. Here’s her answer:


In my novel, The Rose Variations, from Soho Press, composer Rose MacGregor is viewed at an intimate distance. So naturally readers want to know whether the book is autobiographical. The answer is yes, of course. We writers only ever write about ourselves, though often in heavy disguise.

The real Rose behind the Rose in the book is myself, but also a dozen women artists and writer friends who went through horrors trying to balance work and love. The triumphs of the early career years have a blow-you-over intensity and the humiliations feel fatal.

Several characters in my novel bend themselves out of shape trying to attain security – job security, and security through marriage. The setting is a college so the job security available is academic tenure. I know about the deceptive allure of tenure not from my own work life, but because my father campaigned and won academic tenure and managed to lose his job anyway.

When it comes to love, Rose MacGregor gets herself into one scrape after another. Some of these are my own trials and errors, some, those of my friends, and some I made up from bits and pieces of things I saw and heard. All for the sake of the story—a story set in an era when the slogan, just do it, meant, not sports, but exercise between the bed sheets.

The form of fiction allows a writer to tell the truth more completely than possible in an essay or a memoir, where assertions must be based on fact. The ‘once upon a time’, implied at the beginning of a novel takes us to an alternate world where facts fall away. There, we look not only at people and what they do, but into their very hearts. If the story seems true, we’re there.

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