Talia Carner's Reviews > The Amateur Marriage

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
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Oct 01, 11


It is amazing how long a marriage can remain "amateur." Yet, with a keen eye to the characters of two good people whose incompatibilities only deepen with time, Anne Tyler portrays the kind of marriage that is all too universal: two young people, propped against one another by society and by forces of history, are bound together for a lifetime. Or is it a lifetime? Not until one of them surprises the other and snaps.

I particularly liked Tyler's masterful depiction of Pauline, a loveable, volatile, emotional, well-meaning, energetic--cute!--and so misguided woman, who never learns from her mistakes, never alters her ways even when realities of her family life--the ideals and images she set up for herself, her husband, and her children--no longer held true.

Someone once defined literary fiction as "a book about boring people doing nothing." That leaves the author with the immense task of writing strong, sure-penned prose and of keeping the reader close to the minute details as Tyler done so artfully. Having dispensed with drama, she weaves a sensitive tale out of what seems like merely the ordinary and brings home the consequences of leading what seems like a perfectly orchestrated marriage and family life.

As for the novel's ending, I'd rather the author didn't wrap the story so neatly in a package, but rather left it to the reader to wonder whether these characters have remained "amateurs" in the game of life.

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