Weekend. Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Hamilton, Jane Eaton. Weekend. Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver. 2016. F;10/16

As fiction, for character and for plot this story is very good. There are a lot of interesting twists and turns, the people are three-dimensional and real, and all sorts of issues (money, illness, middle age, love, sex, parents and children, raising a baby…) are taken on directly and presented so we can experience them. But the queer thing, still I’m sorry not entirely in the centre of everyone’s concept of… usual I guess, is here archly and for me therefore aggressively presumed not only to be okay with everyone, but familiar. It’s as if we sat down to read something and discovered, lovely though it might be, that it presumed and celebrated Southern Baptist family life or the circumstances of world-class elite athletes as if everyone lived or at least understood in detail those kinds of a life.

It is also a little as if Ms. Hamilton is daring the world to react the way I am here. Okay, I’ll bite.

Two lesbian couples, one partner of each of which is an architect and has each built a building on an island in a lake in Ontario, have a weekend there and experience critical issues in their relationships. In one a baby has just been born (with very realistic and sympathetic appreciation of the immense ups and downs in that situation) and in the other marriage will be, and is, proposed (with a finely-tuned appreciation of power in a romantic relationship). All, it turns out, is not as it seems, and one of the relationships collapses apparently cruelly on the part of one of the partners, and the other veers off into physical illness.

Sex is rendered in vivid detail, reminding me in places of Book of Memories, where it was also homosexual. Arguments are wonderfully real and exposed as emotional events that bend and shape the logic of the antagonists. The external furniture including a huge dog, boats, the lake, weather, and the beautiful homes enhance the complexity and realism.

So what’s my problem? Well I think I’m there in respect of tolerance of sexual, political, and intellectual lives that aren’t mine. I have gay friends and we joke about our differences, and I also have quite close friends who are pretty committed to the radical right, and others to the radical left. But I’m not at the point of presuming because other ways of life than mine are okay, that mine is somehow not okay or to blame for past intolerance, or that I’m expected not to recognize that there is a difference.

You might call me defensive, a closet homophobe, or a conservative grump. My right-wing friends find I’m a bit on the wet side, advocating drug safe-houses and comfortable with abortion and physician-assisted death. But I prefer not to participate in either side’s turning a blind eye to the other in a world where extremism exists and is likely not to go away.

LGBTQ people and their fans would be over the moon about this novel and if I were one I’m sure I would be too. The writing is pretty terrific. But as it is I guess I wish Ms. Hamilton had woven a little grey into her bright jazzy fabric to let the rest of us know she understands that we dull straights also exist and that we’re okay too. 7.0/8.8.

About John Sloan

John Sloan is a senior academic physician in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia, and has spent most of his 30 years' practice caring for the frail elderly in Vancouver. He is the author of "A Bitter Pill: How the Medical System is Failing the Elderly", published in 2009 by Greystone Books. His innovative primary care practice for the frail elderly has been adopted by Vancouver Coastal Health and is expanding. Dr. Sloan lectures throughout North America on care of the elderly.
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