Saturday, July 11, 2009

Summer Recommendation 1 : The Story of a Marriage

The first of a series of occasional book recommendations for the summer holiday...

Andrew Sean Greer's The Story of a Marriage, just out in paperback from Faber and Faber, is set in 1953 in San Francisco, and shares some of the atmosphere of the great TV series Mad Men (which is set at the start of the 60s, when change is more obviously in the air in America). It's a short novel, but packs a lot into its 233 pages. Narrated by housewife (and mother of a polio-stricken son) Pearlie, it hits us with two revelations in the first section, one which comes as no great surprise, and a second which is a real shocker. The interplay of these two complications drives the story, which evokes 1950s San Francisco expertly.

The novel opens 'We think we know the ones we love', a sentence repeated periodically through the novel, and the elegant twists and turns of the narrative constantly enact this idea. Greer's prose style is pleasingly free of the portentousness of some modern American fiction, but is still capable of moments of lyrical beauty. Pearlie's voice is always convincing; a particularly moving passage late in the book expresses the aching possibility of loneliness -

I was still in my twenties. And here's what I thought would be the worst: that no one else would ever know me young. I would always be this age or older, from now on, to any man I met... (continued on page 209 in the Faber paperback)

Previously, Greer wrote The Confessions of Max Tivoli. Below, an interview with the author by Daniel Handler ('Lemony Snicket'). Greer's website is here. George Miller's interview on the Faber site here is recommended.

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