Frustrated Ambitions: Is It For Women Only?

I was reading our November evening book discussion choice, Girls Like Us, about Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and Carole King in which the author spent a lot of time talking about the 1950s and 60s when women seemed to put everything aside for “their man.” It dawned on me that most of the recent books we’ve discussed covered the same theme of women frustrated with their own talents by the roles they had to assume. There was Age of Desire, a fictionalized account of Edith Wharton; Movement of Stars, a young woman astronomer in 1840s Nantucket; The Astronaut Wives Club and The Doctor and the Diva, in which a talented singer leaves her son (and loses him) to follow her career. EvenĀ The Good House — which is a modern-day story — has the main character abuse alcohol to help her deal with her inner struggles.

I didn’t mean to pick out books with the same basic theme; it just happened. But it made me wonder if the frustrated woman has become a stock character in books. Given that some of these novels are based on real people or are nonfiction, the theme may say more about the writers than the characters. Maybe stories about frustrated men have already been told. John Updike comes to mind.

Can anyone think of any current books that deal with a man’s frustrated ambitions?