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Book review: Out of Time, by Lynne Segal

Dr Daniel James reviews this book on the pleasures and perils of ageing

In an ageing population this book from influential feminist thinker and professor of psychology and gender studies Lynne Segal seems a timely read. Especially where every good politician is queuing up to declare him or herself a feminist.

Out of Time is a personal journey of an author coming to terms with her own ageing and mortality. The style is rather academic and the author’s voice isn’t often as prominent as those of the writers from antiquity and modern times whose thoughts she shares in this comprehensively referenced and indexed book.

Initially Segal talks about her experiences from a feminist stance - the patriarchy does not come off well, but nor does it deserve to. Segal opens up the text to look at men’s perceptions of their own ageing minds and bodies and the anxieties that follow. Changing attitudes to sex and relationships are an important theme. Segal’s own experiences of her sexuality as she has grown older and the differences between straight and gay relationships as the years go by are particularly insightful. Undoubtedly women are kinder to each other, but men are not the enemy here.

Segal examines the difficulties the younger generation face and deals with criticism that the baby-boomers receive from millennials. She mounts a robust defence and reminds the reader that it is the banks, politicians and other agencies that have sold our futures short – not our parents.

Her conclusion is by and large uplifting: age and experience let us know the world around us and, to some extent, ourselves. This can be a path to acceptance, resilience and joy in our ageing. A salient point for the doctor as reader comes from the stoic Epictetus who reminds us to ’let death and exile, and all things which appear terrible, be daily before your eyes… and you will never entertain any abject thought, nor too eagerly covet anything’.

7/10

Dr Daniel James is a GP Registrar in Lambeth, South London

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