Pantheon (Random House), hardback, 281 p.
It is 1987, and Julian Wainwright, aspiring writer and Waspy son of New York City old money, meets beautiful, Jewish Mia Mendelsohn in the laundry room at Graymont College. So begins a love affair that, spurred on by family tragedy, will take Julian and Mia across the country and back, through several college towns, spanning twenty years.This was an enjoyable read, and it’s not just because the author sent me a signed copy to review, even though he does seem like a nice guy. That disclosed, I thought the characters felt very real, and the whole story was like a slice a life. These are real issues and emotions that the characters go through which did make me wonder how much of the book is based on the author’s real life or the lives of people he knows. Either way, I came to care about the characters and what happened to them.
Starting at the height of the Reagan era and ending in the new millennium, Matrimony is about love and friendship, about money and ambition, desire and tensions of faith. It asks what happens to a marriage when it is confronted by betrayal and the specter of mortality. What happens when people marry younger than they’d expected? Can love endure the passing of time?
Scattered amongst the more serious events, there were also splashes of humour in the book that had me smiling as I read. Here’s an example, with Julian lamenting that fact that his book is taking him seemingly forever to write.
“It’s like that joke about Joyce Carol Oates. Someone calls her up and her secretary says, ‘I’m sorry, Miss Oates can’t come to the phone right now, she’s busy writing a book,’ and the person says, ‘That’s okay, I’ll hold.’ Only with me it’s the opposite, Rip Van Winkle wakes up twenty years later and I’m still writing my novel.”It would have been nice perhaps to see a little more depth to some of the characters and their relationships but overall it was a well-written, quiet, character-driven story, that kept me reading. And I’d certainly be interested in reading something else by Joshua Henkin in future.
My Rating: 4/5
(#29 for 2008)
To be released in paperback on August 26, 2008.
You can read an excerpt from the book here or a different excerpt here.
For more information on the book, visit the author's website.
You can also read his guest posts at Books on the Brain and Planet Books.
Also reviewed at:
Books on the Brain
My Journey Through Reading
Age 30 - A Year of Books
B&b ex libris
My Own Little Reading Room
The Boston Bibliphile
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
The Literate Housewife
Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?
Reminder: If you have also read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.