07 May 2009

The Story of a Marriage

I received The Story of a Marriage via a drawing/contest on Twitter from PicadorUSA. I'm still a little stunned because I've only recently learned how many book give-aways exist on the web, so thanks @PicadorUSA!

Greer's book is a quiet, meditative reflection on marriage told through the eyes of the narrator and wife, Pearlie; as the first-person narrator, she is always told what Holland might be thinking or needing and never truly asks for herself so it sets up an interesting commentary on 1950s repression. Because the novel is set in the 1950s of the Korean War, the McCarthy hearings, and the Rosenberg execution, real events also shape Pearlie's story and thoughts on her marriage. Of particular interest is Pearlie's fixation on Ethel Rosenberg and how Ethel is reflected in Pearlie's thoughts; the ramifications of silence and inaction are at the heart of Pearlie's story, too, and Pearlie has learned to find her voice and path at the end of the novel. The real beauty of the novel lies in reading Pearlie's reasoning and decision-making process which is particularly gratifying because I figured out the central problem of the marriage in about twenty pages and that was about twenty-five pages prior to the problem's unmasking. The most interesting character in this novel is Buzz, of whom I won't say much more because anything you know about him spoils part of the story, which is interesting because while Pearlie's story is central to the novel, you can't get rid of Buzz because he always shows up.

I've read some reviews where this was called tedious or confusing; while the book is quiet and slow I didn't find it tedious and most certainly not confusing. I also read a reveiw that noted Greer should have mentioned Sonny's polio more often aside from the few sentences at the beginning. Well, considering there were often mentions of Sonny's odd gait and his need for new leg braces, Greer does mention Sonny's condition from time to time but since ad nauseum description of a medical condition would not be in line with Pearlie's character (an uneducated Af-Am woman from a poor Kentucky town) that would be out of place in a story Pearlie is narrating. I liked the book. Pooh on everyone else.

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