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Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of…
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Uncommon Arrangements: Seven Portraits of Married Life in London Literary…

by Katie Roiphe

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The subjects of this book are interesting and their stories are full of drama and emotion. The author does a good job of bringing the reader into the intimacy of the situations. The author inserts her own opinions at a few key points and they are inconsistent with the facts she has only just presented but that one small flaw aside I recommend it. ( )
  Tinamonster | Feb 14, 2014 |
So, I really enjoyed reading this book, which was basically just a series of gossipy essays on the love lives of prominent London literary and cultural figures, including HG Wells-Rebecca West, Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth von Arnim, and the strange love triangles that formed around Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. Roiphe may have had a larger, more politicized intent behind compiling these stories -- she lays out her reasons for picking these figures and for finding their marriages worthy of study in a lengthy introduction -- and I was intrigued by the idea that the figures under consideration in this book self-consciously tried to find alternatives to traditional marriage, were torn between Victorian ideals and modern ideas, and often fell into the very traps they were trying to structure their relationships to avoid. A lot of the behavior Roiphe describes seems rather bizarre and destructive, and although she doesn't overlook the impact that had on the partners in these relationships and on their offspring, she generally avoids being judgey & the whole thing generally comes off as great fun. I had a great time with this one. ( )
2 vote fannyprice | Oct 16, 2010 |
Many affecting essays here, poignantly crafted and surprisingly non-judgmental given the easy pot shots available for the several cads, delusionals and romantic drifters portrayed. Ms Roiphe doesn't attempt a broad analysis, it's all about the heart, but the reader won't feel slighted. The essay on Vanessa Bell is worth the book price alone. ( )
  pheditor | Feb 1, 2009 |
After reading this, I think I need to look for something more about Vanessa Bell and Katherine Mansfield- their stories interested me the most. ( )
  susanj | Jul 13, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385339372, Hardcover)

Katie Roiphe’s stimulating work has made her one of the most talked about cultural critics of her generation. Now this bracing young writer delves deeply into one of the most layered of subjects: marriage. Drawn in part from the private memoirs, personal correspondence, and long-forgotten journals of the British literary community from 1910 to the Second World War, here are seven “marriages à la mode”—each rising to the challenge of intimate relations in more or less creative ways. Jane Wells, the wife of H.G., remained his rock, despite his decade-long relationship with Rebecca West (among others). Katherine Mansfield had an irresponsible, childlike romance with her husband, John Middleton Murry, that collapsed under the strain of real-life problems. Vera Brittain and George Gordon Catlin spent years in a “semidetached” marriage (he in America, she in England). Vanessa Bell maintained a complicated harmony with the painter Duncan Grant, whom she loved, and her husband, Clive. And her sister Virginia Woolf, herself no stranger to marital particularities, sustained a brilliant running commentary on the most intimate details of those around her.

Every chapter revolves around a crisis that occurred in each of these marriages—as serious as life-threatening illness or as seemingly innocuous as a slightly tipsy dinner table conversation—and how it was resolved…or not resolved. In these portraits, Roiphe brilliantly evokes what are, as she says, “the fluctuations and shifts in attraction, the mysteries of lasting affection, the endurance and changes in love, and the role of friendship in marriage.” The deeper mysteries at stake in all relationships.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:02 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Cultural critic Roiphe delves deeply into one of the most layered of subjects: marriage. Drawn in part from the private memoirs, personal correspondence, and long-forgotten journals of the British literary community from 1910 to the Second World War, here are seven "marriages à la mode"--each rising to the challenge of intimate relations in more or less creative ways: H.G. and Jane Wells; Katherine Mansfield; Vera Brittain and George Gordon Catlin; Vanessa and Clive Bell; and Vanessa's sister Virginia Woolf, herself no stranger to marital particularities, who sustained a brilliant running commentary on the most intimate details of those around her. Every chapter revolves around a crisis that occurred in each of these marriages, and how it was resolved--or not. In these portraits, Roiphe evokes "the fluctuations and shifts in attraction, the mysteries of lasting affection, the endurance and changes in love, and the role of friendship in marriage."--From publisher description.… (more)

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