Book Review: The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

About the Book:

Michael and Pauline seemed like the perfect couple – young, good-looking, made for each other.

The moment she walked into his mother’s grocery store in Baltimore, he was smitten, and in the heat of World War II fervour, they marry in haste. From the sound of the cash register in the old grocery to the counter-culture jargon of the sixties, from the miniskirts to the multilayers of later years, we watch their lives unspool and see the consequences of their very mismatched marriage.

Published by Penguin Random House – Vintage

Released October 2004

My Thoughts:

Written with Anne Tyler’s classic observational style, The Amateur Marriage spans from the 1940s through to the early 2000s, dipping in and out of the family life of the Antons. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one family member, be it Pauline, Michael, or one of their children, and each chapter moves forward several years, giving that feeling as though you are just popping in for a catch up with them after having not seen them for a time. As is Anne Tyler’s way, sometimes we are there for the mundane, others, we are there for the impacting changes upon their lives. Also in Anne Tyler fashion, these big moments sneak up on you and leave you breathless.

‘People didn’t stay on an even keel in the Anton family. The did exaggerated things like throwing out their clothes or running away from home or perishing in spectacular crashes. Or showing up after twenty-nine years and wondering where everyone was.’

Pauline is a very difficult and needy woman, and her personality wears each family member down in different ways. For Lindy, Pauline proves too much. For George and Karen, and later Pagan, they bear the burden differently to Lindy and this too has its far reaching consequences. For Michael, we see the slow disintegration of their marriage and family life, only for him to develop a selective memory at the end of his life with regards to Pauline – in this, once again, Anne Tyler proves how much she is intimately acquainted with human nature and the complexities of memory and love.

When we are in the chapters told from Pauline’s perspective, we see just how complex she was. She loved hard, was not a bad woman, and yet, was incredibly selfish and demanding, her behaviour often erratic and accusatory, her love often suffocating for her children and confusing for her husband. I both understood her and was perplexed by her. As far as characters go, she was excellently crafted.

As always, I recommend this one. I haven’t yet come across an Anne Tyler I haven’t enjoyed and recommended and I’m having such a great time making my way slowly through her backlist. It’s like a treat I reward myself with every few months.

4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler

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