Broken Dreams: An Intimate History of the Midlife Crisis by Mark Jackson

In the early 1990s in the house of some family friends, tucked between The Game of Life and Taboo, there was a box that looked, to us children, faintly risqué. On the cover was a cartoon of an angry-looking man doing DIY with the strapline: “Can you survive your midlife crisis without cracking up, breaking up or going broke?” One New Year’s Eve, while our parents were dancing to Annie Lennox, we attempted to decipher its “crisis cards”, “stress” points and “divorce” points, and something mysteriously called “the change”. It felt like something we weren’t supposed to see, a distressing vision of our parents’ future and perhaps our own.

I had buried this memory until I read Mark Jackson’s “intimate” history of the modern midlife crisis, Broken Dreams. The game Midlife Crisis, he informs us, was created in 1982 at a high point for what he variously calls “the dangerous years”, the “emotional typhoon”, the “second emotional adolescence” and “the ‘measles’ of middle age”, as well as a few soothing euphemisms such as “meridian” and “crossroads”.

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