Monday, 25 April 2011

Book review: The Amateur Marriage by Ann Tyler

Ann Tyler writes a sympathetic account of a mis-matched couple that is supremely ordinary and yet she accurately captures how two people get caught and remain in a loveless marriage. This couple do not get off to a great start and she shows us how they never quite find their marriage footing.

At first they do love each other but they never get to know each other confidentially. As a couple they are diametrically opposed, she is flighty and careless whilst he is solid and dependable. But neither of them learns to accommodate the other fully in their own life. So they rub along and frequently rub each other the wrong way.

Micheal and Pauline come from different worlds and collide into each other during a time of great confrontation, Pearl Harbour has just been bombed, and it’s this fervour that drives our couple to marry in great haste, that impacts the rest of their lives.
Micheal is content in his Polish neighbourhood but Pauline has aspirations to move to the suburbs. Micheal is tight with money and Pauline is extravagant and over the years they flourish financially but they never do well emotionally.

Ann exquisitely shows us the lack of choices people are truly faced with as individuals especially during a trip to San Francisco, when Micheal fails to secure his aim and feels helpless. But is this restriction a freedom? Here she reflects how much our freedom is limited, especially when he is not allowed to have access to his daughter. Returning home with Pagan reflects his lack of choice.

She succeeds in giving us both characters points of views and we do see a glimpse of a positive side in amongst a series of negative acts. But the endless petty feuding between them finally drives a wedge between them.

Ann Tyler portrays this ill advised match perfectly with her intimate depiction of daily life and presents the reader with both the public and the private aspects of a married life seamlessly through sixty years of marriage from late 1940’s to 2001 and occasionally you the reader may find yourself smiling as she describes changes in period with attention to small details, but ultimately she shows the reader how this couple’s domestic dis-harmony impacts three generations of their family.

If you like family drama’s you will love this book. I’d recommend you read it soon.

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