Book 32 of my 2017 Reading Challenge
read from May 28 - June 12
Private Life by Jane Smiley
Summary (via the book jacket)
From the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of A Thousand Acres: the powerful and deeply affecting story of one woman's life, from post-Civil War Missouri to California in the midst of World War II.
When Margaret Mayfield marries Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early at the age of twenty-seven, she narrowly avoids condemning herself to life as an old maid. Instead, knowing little about marriage and even less about her husband, she moves with Andrew to his naval base in California. Margaret stands by Andrew during tragedies both historical and personal, but as World War II approaches and the secrets of her husband's scientific and academic past begin to surface, she is forced to reconsider the life she had so carefully constructed.
A riveting and nuanced novel of marriage and family, Private Life reveals the mysteries of intimacy and the anonymity that endures even in lives lived side by side.
The story was fine but the prologue was difficult to follow because we don't know the characters yet and there were no quotation marks and few "so-and-so said"s to indicate who was talking and when. That particular issue didn't continue past the prologue but no chapter breaks made it feel longer than it actually was.
I loved Margaret's description of her son's birth. "Once he was in her arms, she was reminded that he had not "arrived." Maybe to Andrew and Dr. Bernstein there was an arrival, but for her he had been here a long time. He had now become visible, that was all."
Even though I'm not raving about this book I plan to read more from this author.
A Few Quotes from the Book
"He gave her a little smile, sighed. At this very moment, she remembered her grandfather talking about mules and horses. He had said, 'It's harder to train a mule than a horse. You know why? When a horse sighs, you know he's giving up, but when a mule sighs, you know he's coming up with another plan.' "
"Like everyone she knew or read about, she agreed with the title of one of Dora's pieces, this one sent from Cairo, "My Life Didn't Prepare Me for This." Dora was writing about the mysteries of the Khan el-Khalili bazaar. Margaret was thinking about everything in the whole world."
"No, she was almost sixty and she had not been to London or Paris or Rome, and there was no going there now. Yes, she was balanced, as she had gotten in the habit of congratulating herself for being. But, she saw, she was balanced on a very narrow perch."