My review of Andrew Sean Greer's highly-praised, certainly proficient, but in fact mawkish tapestry of cliché, The Story of a Marriage, can be read in the Independent newspaper today.

My review begins:

"It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs." So begins Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, set in 1953 at the height of McCarthyite anti-communism. This is also the year in which cracks begin to appear in the marriage at the centre of Andrew Sean Greer's accomplished and humane domestic drama. An old pal of Pearlie Cook's husband unexpectedly turns up, announcing: "'Hello, ma'am, I hope you can help me.' With those ordinary words, everything would change" (more).

Readers Comments

  1. Ooh, didn't know you were in print, Mark! Very interesting to read this actually, as a couple of people I know have highly praised it and I've been keen to get hold of a copy as a result.

    Of course the paperback will proudly trumpet:

    "Accomplished and humane ... beautiful writing" - Mark Thwaite, Independent

  2. Hiya John,

    Didn't the govt. just pass a law one effect of which is that publishers can't take quotes out of context!? If not, for sure, they'll do what you said!

    This is a kind of test cast ELF novel for me: it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quack likes a duck (if duck = literature; go with me on this!), but it absolutely is not a duck! It is a tissue of cliches and clunky metaphors: it looks beautiful and accomplished (and it is exquisitely paced and sometimes wonderfully written) but is set up merely to "push your buttons". In that sense what some have praised as being sensitive is in fact sentimental and, indeed, hard-hearted.

  3. Mark - You continue to make me curious about this book for the same reason as John - other's have gushed about it. (I didn't take it on vacation with me, but now that I'm back I can risk reading something I won't like as it doesn't take up space in my luggage).
    Your 'walks like a duck, quacks like a duck' metaphor is great - precisely how I felt about Michael Frayn's latest play at the National, Afterlife, which I saw Friday night. By all exterior details you would say it is a play, but it was really a string of empty cliches one after another striding about in lovely 20s and 30s costumes.

  4. I am reading The Story of a Marriage now and am seeing exactly what you mean, and what you meant on dovegreyreader's blog when you spoke of "artless artifice". Further thoughts in due course.

  5. Yes, I bought this book because all the reviews were gushing. The book is empty garbage--full of some kind of gay mishmash-- no
    surprise except that I wasted $23.95 on this text and just gave money to some overrated writer who must have "close" connections in the
    review world. Definite pass -- not great story telling.

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