Cease to Blush


467 pages
ISBN 0-679-31322-2
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Patricia Morley

Patricia Morley is professor emerita of English and Canadian Studies at
Concordia University. She is the author of several books, including The
Mountain Is Moving: Japanese Women’s Lives, Kurlek and Margaret
Laurence: The Long Journey Home.


Cease to Blush is a raucous, no-holds-barred novel about
mother–daughter relationships in the 1960s. It is also a tough
portrait of a modern woman in her early 30s who is determined to throw
off inhibitions and grab life with both hands.

The story unfolds in the first-person voice of Vivian, who attends her
mother’s burial wearing a tight red suit and high heels. Vivian has
already missed the funeral. She resents most of the mourners, and blames
her mother for dying before the two had “come to an understanding,”
as daughters are supposed to do in their 30s—or so Vivian has read.
Unfortunately, Vivian has always failed to live up to her mother’s
expectations. And Vivian’s lover, Frank, though he appreciates her
sexual appetite, hints that sexual threesomes are fun.

The funeral encourages Vivian’s memories to run wild. Ironically, in
her childhood she had feared her mother’s memories, but now she cannot
control her own. They run rampant, extending a narrative largely filled
with memories that refuse to lie quietly. “Mother” may have been
buried at the novel’s start, but is very much alive in her
daughter’s mind. An old photo album generates a torrent of fresh
memories in Vivian.

The ending is full of surprises, fresh starts, and fresh relationships.
Vivian has discovered that her mother was a stripper, and that her own
“self” is no longer “big enough” for her. She needs a new start,
and has plans for one.

Cease to Blush affords a very unflattering, blackly comic portrait of
modern North Americans’ mores and morals, one that your average
optimist would see as a gross exaggeration. Older teens and very young
adults might find this novel more to their taste than mature readers.


Livingston, Billie., “Cease to Blush,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/16986.