Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Matrimony," by Joshua Henkin

The title "Matrimony" reminds me of 19th century novels, which in my view is a very good thing; I treasure novels that look deeply into the lives of a small group of people, exploring their relationships, their values, and the events that change them (or don't). This novel (Vintage, 2007) is by Joshua Henkin, author of the more recent novel that I posted (very positively) about on 8/19/12: "The World Without You." It was because I liked that novel so much that I went back and found "Matrimony." The two novels share -- unsurprisingly -- a certain tone and sensibility that I find attractive: thoughtful, modest, probing, understated. "Matrimony"'s subject matter reminds me of that of Eugenides' "The Marriage Plot," but the styles of the two novels are very different. There is something brasher about "The Marriage Plot" that -- although I generally enjoyed the novel -- was a little off-putting to me. (See my post about it on 11/26/11.) I also like the main characters in "Matrimony" better than those in "The Marriage Plot." The four main characters met in college, and the novel follows them for some years after. Julian and Mia fall in love and marry, but suffer some upheavals in their relationship. They also have an ambivalent relationship with their friend Carter. Most of the novel takes place in various college towns. I like the everydayness of the lives described. Big things happen, yes, but somehow the small events of daily life are as interesting as the big ones. Although the novel is of medium length, and covers about 20 years, there is a somewhat leisurely, unrushed quality to the telling of the story, another quality I value.

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