Brownrigg so accurately depicts the experience of women who love both men and women that it is downright uncanny ... In conveying the experience of bisexuality, as well as the emotional reflection on that experience, Brownrigg is humane and smart enough to be funny even where the subject is, underneath the surface, painful ... There is nothing of the parable in these two books. They are not allegories or lessons about how to be a queer woman in the world. It is not wrong to have babies, and it isn’t wrong to marry men or not marry men. It is not wrong to be too young or too old, to be more or less into girls at whatever particular age or stage one happens to be. For this simple reason, reading Brownrigg’s novels feels like entering a fictional world that is less fussy, more real. Mainstream fiction could do with substantially more fiction about romance between teenagers and between middle-aged women. For now, we have these pages.
Sylvia Brownrigg’s Pages for You, a novel narrated by a naïve Yale freshman, was published in 2001 ... Yet Pages for Her, the novel’s long-awaited sequel, set 20 years later, is cut through with disappointment ...is the deflating thud of reality, rudely encountered ...Brownrigg delays this meeting between the two women until the last fifth of the novel, choosing instead to flesh out the vicissitudes of Flannery’s life as a parent ... One of the gratifying aspects of Pages for Her is that it spends its central section with Anne, offering more insight into a woman who was seen in Pages for You only through the lens of Flannery’s heady infatuation ... When Anne and Flannery finally meet, the novel kicks into gear.
...[a] deeply thoughtful, absorbing novel ... Readers will be glad to know that it’s not strictly necessary to read Pages for You first, since Brownrigg has efficiently built that novel’s essence into this sequel. In fact, reading You after Her (which I did) provides a fascinating treat, allowing us to travel back in time and eavesdrop on its characters’ younger selves ... Brownrigg has set herself a stiff challenge, which is to fully inhabit the minds, hearts and voices of two seasoned, gifted, but utterly distinct women: one a self-questioning novelist, the other an admired, authoritative-yet-vulnerable, semi-dislocated academic. That mission is accomplished compellingly. We’re glad to come to know these women, and to be taught by what happens between them. Reading (or rereading) Pages for You, as a kind of coda, makes it even better.
Slowly – all too slowly, for Brownrigg is awkward with plot – the two women converge. The meeting is delayed until the final third of the novel, and their lives and problems in the 20-year gap are narrated according to a principle of detailed recapitulation ... Where Pages for You is ecstatic and poetic, the style of Pages for Her can seem overblown and cliched, as it seeks to raise its romance material into the sublime ... The scenes between loving mother and lovable daughter are the best thing in Pages for You. We feel Flannery’s dilemma acutely. But the issue of power relations between the sexes is skewed by Brownrigg’s grotesque stereotyping of Flannery’s husband Charles. A subtler portrait would have made Flannery’s predicament more complex and interesting ... Pages for Her is a romance novel which elevates and camouflages its generic elements by presenting them as reflections on women’s literary creativity: erotic love is treated as the crucible of true writing.
The novel cannily examines what happens when the life you have is not what you pictured in your teens or twenties, and how our formative experiences take on new meaning with the passage of time. The women’s reunion prompts one of the book’s most poignant moments: Flannery’s realization that, in her absence, Anne has taken on ethereal meaning ... We don’t see Anne and Flannery meet in New Haven until two-thirds of the way into the novel. While the steaminess we’re promised is ultimately delivered, their reconciliation is abbreviated. While the reader is provided an interestingly thorough accounting of Flannery and Anne’s past twenty years, their promised reunion is short. While readers may wish the characters had more time together, those who are curious to know what has happened to the ex-lovers will not be disappointed. Instead of a 'we will meet again' narrative, this novel is a thoughtful examination of the passage of time and how romantic relationships, both past and present, warp and sustain us.
Brownrigg returns to Flannery and Anne's story in her latest, Pages for Her. Enough of its predecessor is covered by their memories that, if you didn't read it, you won't be lost ... This time around, Brownrigg spends as much time in Anne's head as she does in Flannery's, so we get an intimate perspective on how Anne's partner left her after nearly two decades because he wanted children and she didn't ... The two women don't cross paths until two-thirds of the way through the novel, so there's a lot of emotional and sensual energy packed into their reunion ... They're just two women who had something special once and, when the opportunity presents itself, find themselves eager to pick up where they left off.
Brownrigg approaches her characters with clarity and sensitivity, capturing the nuances in the women’s relationships to the people they love—as mother, daughter, sister, friend, wife, or lover—and the power they give those people to define and inspire them. Though the author’s touch is generally deft, the prose does, at times, get a bit moist. Ultimately, however, the story is propelled less by the thrill of the erotic than by the pull of loves lost and selves seemingly left behind yet always with us. Brownrigg considers motherhood, romance, identity, and the changes brought by time in this tender, insightful novel.