Middle-aged serial widow, lapsed Catholic and delicatessen-keeper Aurora is mourning her third husband. Alone for the first time in many years, ‘without the structure of marriage to show me what to do’, she is fearful and confused about her identity. Since the age of sixteen she has been defined by her various marriages to, respectively, philandering hippy Tom; priggish, bow-tie wearing art historian Cecil; and terminally dull tax inspector Hugh. But it is Aurora’s parents’ legacy of a gun, a delicatessen, Catholic guilt, Italian blood and a hopelessly suburban stepmother, as much as her multiple marriages, that supply the stuff of Michèle Roberts’s entertaining and irreverent novel. In Reader, I Married Him she takes well-aimed shots not only at the easy targets of marriage and Catholicism, but also, more subtly, at some of the shibboleths of the feminist faith.
After Hugh’s funeral, Aurora and her stepmother, Maude, quaff gin and reminisce. The well-preserved and immaculately dressed Maude, ballroom-dancing aficionado and zealous convert to Catholicism, is Aurora’s only link to her dead mother. She freely dispenses banal advice on men, marriage and diets, and treats the fifty-year-old Aurora, whom she