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The Story of a Marriage

by Andrew Sean Greer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8936724,153 (3.72)70
Fiction. Literature. LGBTQIA+ (Fiction.) HTML:

"We think we know the ones we love." So Pearlie Cook begins her indirect and devastating exploration of the mystery at the heart of every relationship: how we can ever truly know another person.

It is 1953 and Pearlie, a dutiful young housewife, finds herself living in the Sunset District in San Francisco, caring not only for her husband's fragile health but also for her son, who is afflicted with polio. Then, one Saturday morning, a stranger appears on her doorstep, and everything changes. All the certainties by which Pearlie has lived and tried to protect her family are thrown into doubt. Does she know her husband at all? And what does the stranger want in return for his offer of a hundred thousand dollars? For six months in 1953 young Pearlie Cook struggles to understand the world around her, and most especially her husband, Holland.

Pearlie's story is a meditation not only on love but also on the effects of war, with one war recently over and another coming to a close. Set in a climate of fear and repressionâ??political, sexual, and racialâ??The Story of a Marriage from bestselling author Andrew Sean Greer, portrays three people trapped by the confines of their era, and the desperate measures they are prepared to take to escape it. Lyrical and surprising, The Story of a Marriage looks back at a period that we tend to misremember as one of innocence and simplicity… (more)

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» See also 70 mentions

English (65)  Dutch (2)  Italian (2)  French (1)  All languages (70)
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
The Story of a Marriage is an intimate meditation on the unknowability of other people, even people we love, as in spouses, friends, or relatives. A housewife in mid-20th Century San Francisco assumes that she understands her husband, knows who he is, and knows he loves her. This challenging novel is an example and an exercise in finding out how wrong such assumptions are bound to be. As stiff a challenge as this piece was to write, Andrew Sean Greer handles all the structural and all the narrative-order issues with a sure hand, never missing a beat or a cue. The result is convincing and memorable, and satisfies the reader that the author’s powers were equal to the task. The result has satisfying twists and turns which make a gratifying whole.

The story weds Holland, a strikingly handsome man who effortlessly captivates everyone, and Pearl, a woman whom Holland finds beautiful, much to her surprise. They seem destined to be together: they were teen sweethearts in wartime Kentucky before Holland was conscripted; they meet again a few years later by utter chance at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. They embark on married life and have a son, but a few years into this son’s life, a man comes to Pearl’s home and introduces himself as someone who knew Holland during the war.

Thus begins the heart of the novel. It takes quite a bit of time for Pearl to learn why this man, himself handsome, well-dressed, and mannerly, visits their home. Once she does, however, she feels her life begin to spin away from her, her young family and her way of life in jeopardy of disintegrating. The novel consists of her reaction to this realization, the dear assumptions she must abandon, and a suspenseful discussion as she readies herself for wrenching change.

All this is, as I say, very competently handled by Greer. However, Holland remains a cipher throughout most of the book. He’s the fulcrum, the nucleus of the story, and without knowing his mind, or how to read the signs of how he feels, we are held in suspense. The ultimate reveal occurs very near the end of the narrative, but even after the result is made known, this character remains mysterious.

And perhaps that is Greer’s pièce de résistance, the fact that we as the readers remain just as much in the dark about this man as do the characters in the book.

This novel is disciplined, logical, and satisfying. We dwell for a long time in a woman’s mind, a woman who suddenly has a lot to lose, and she comes believably across in that role. It evokes the zeitgeist of the time (the U.S. just as the Korean War winds down, but the Cold War remains at its peak) to a T, and has twists and turns enough to surprise and give us reason to appreciate the work as well-handled.

https://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2023/10/the-story-of-marriage-by-andrew-sean... ( )
  LukeS | Oct 30, 2023 |
Deceptively short and simple book that is written like poetry and full of twists, turns and surprises. A beautiful work of art about a marriage lived in silence and the assumptions we make about those we love. One of the best books I have read in a while. ( )
  antiques | Jul 13, 2023 |
I am giving 4 stars for the prose, which I found quite beautiful at times. I found certain aspects of the plot to stretch credulity, and thought that the characters could have been better drawn. ( )
  KateFinney | Jul 10, 2021 |
An amazing book. I reached about page 40 and there discovered something that surprised me so much, I had to return to the beginning to try to figure out whether I had missed something, whether my presumptions blinded me, or whether the author had endeavored to hide it. I won't give away which of those was the correct conclusion. This novel is not only about a marriage but about war, and various responses to it, and what it means to be an outsider in America in the 50s (and, by extension, today). Highly recommended. ( )
  AnaraGuard | Nov 1, 2020 |
chi ama davvero non dice "ti amo".
chi ama davvero dice "Lascia che mi prenda cura di te". ( )
  cry6379 | Sep 17, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
A timeless story of conflicting loyalties, “The Story of a Marriage” has roots in the fiction of Poe’s era, but, fittingly enough, its plot is firmly anchored in the vividly described America of the early 1950s — a seemingly serene era whose submerged social, racial and political tensions would soon create their own disruptions and upheavals.
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Andrew Sean Greerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Fuente, Ana MarĂ­a de laTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mayoux, Suzanne V.Traductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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A David Ross
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We think we know the ones we love.
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I was in my seventies by then; the first time I realized my age was when I tried on a scarf in San Francisco and said it was a little bright for an old woman like me, expecting the clerk to contradict me, and when he didn’t, I saw myself at last for what I was.
What is it like for men? Even now I can't tell you. To have to hold up the world and never show the strain. To pretend at every moment: pretend to be strong, and wise, and good, and faithful. But nobody is strong or wise or good or faithful, not really. It turns out everyone is faking it as best they can.
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Fiction. Literature. LGBTQIA+ (Fiction.) HTML:

"We think we know the ones we love." So Pearlie Cook begins her indirect and devastating exploration of the mystery at the heart of every relationship: how we can ever truly know another person.

It is 1953 and Pearlie, a dutiful young housewife, finds herself living in the Sunset District in San Francisco, caring not only for her husband's fragile health but also for her son, who is afflicted with polio. Then, one Saturday morning, a stranger appears on her doorstep, and everything changes. All the certainties by which Pearlie has lived and tried to protect her family are thrown into doubt. Does she know her husband at all? And what does the stranger want in return for his offer of a hundred thousand dollars? For six months in 1953 young Pearlie Cook struggles to understand the world around her, and most especially her husband, Holland.

Pearlie's story is a meditation not only on love but also on the effects of war, with one war recently over and another coming to a close. Set in a climate of fear and repressionâ??political, sexual, and racialâ??The Story of a Marriage from bestselling author Andrew Sean Greer, portrays three people trapped by the confines of their era, and the desperate measures they are prepared to take to escape it. Lyrical and surprising, The Story of a Marriage looks back at a period that we tend to misremember as one of innocence and simplicity

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