Kasa Cotugno's Reviews > Private Life

Private Life by Jane Smiley
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's review
May 07, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: arc
Read from May 07 to 08, 2010

Jane Smiley jump-starts this story of a marriage of the early 20th century using members of her own family. Employing a style that is almost polite and reverential, she admittedly fictionalized their private life, seeing as how this particular great-aunt was largely unknown to her personally, whereas her great-uncle was a notorious figure in the scientific community. It is unclear whether Andrew Early, the fictionalized Thomas Jefferson See, was astoundingly brilliant or out of his mind, probably both. His paranoia was fueled by fantasies of spies and frustration in not being able to promote his ideas, but this makes for fascinating reading. The novel spans a wide scope from the 1880's until the beginning of World War 2, an era in which women did not question their husbands. Margaret Early finds herself at Mare Island Naval Station in Vallejo California, half a continent away from her Missouri family home, forging a life for herself while trying to cope with her husband. Smiley deftly works in bigger events of the time such as the 1906 San Andreas earthquake, giving momentous events a human connection. Good old fashioned storytelling.

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