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Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Amateur Marriage

The Amateur Marriage: A Novel by Anne Tyler

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful:

April 20, 2005

I guess this will be another review where I will have to disagree with the vast majority of reviewers. Simply put, I thought this was an amateur effort when compared with "Breathing Lessons" or even "Accidental Tourist".

The most confounding and bewildering thing for me was the last hundred pages, which seemed like an extended epilogue. After Michael and Pauline divorce, what's the point? And after Pauline is dispatched in one of the many jumps between scenes, what is the point? The book I thought was about Michael and Pauline's relationship, so after it's over, what is the book about? There is something at the end about Michael still caring about Pauline even fifteen years after her death, but it was too little too late for me.

Michael and Pauline themselves seemed warmed over from "Breathing Lessons". Michael is the cold, rational one while Pauline is emotional and often irrational. The other characters like the children and mother-in-law are not developed enough because the story keeps skipping through time. For example, their oldest child Lindy one moment is 7, the next she's 17, and then she's gone for the rest of the book. There just wasn't enough time to get to know her except for a few sketchy details. The same goes for the other children. And in the end there ended up being too many children, grandchildren, daughters-in-law, and so forth for me to keep track of. None of them seemed important to remember anyway.

As for the dramatic action in the book, it peters out after the trip to San Francisco where Michael and Pauline don't see their daughter but recover her child. That chapter itself seemed to come out of the Great Book of late 1960s cliches that it really had nothing new to say or impart to me. That was easily the most exciting part of the book, with the rest (even when Michael decides to leave Pauline) so mundane that it didn't matter.

In the end, that's what I'd have to say about this book: it didn't matter. None of it. I'd already seen the characters in "Breathing Lessons", so there was no need for me to read characters who were the same but with different names in a story that was largely the same but with different dates and slightly different happenings.

I would recommend reading "Breathing Lessons" and skipping this one. You may as well read the original instead of the pale imitation.

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