• Private Life by Jane Smiley

    This novel, set between 1883 and 1942, follows the life of Margaret, a 27 year old woman who looks destined to be a spinster until her Mother manages to “marry her off” to a mysterious yet seemingly perfect scientist, Captain Andrew Early, who is 11 years her senior. Margaret is the plain one amongst her sisters, not the kind of woman you tend to notice.

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    Margaret has met him before by accident, and is intrigued by this man and his bicycle – something that is not often seen where she lives. She is set to be intrigued by a lot more in the coming years.

    Married life isn’t quite what she expects – who’d think that the words “love, honour and obey” could have such ramifications. As her Mother has told her how lucky she is to be married, she is determined to make the marriage work – even when it involves what she refers to “spousal imprisonment” and doing as she is told.

    The years pass, and with them a strange web of intrigue, deception, sadness, loss and paranoia evolves – a strange man, a best friend, hired help and a beautiful painting all lead to a strange end where she is forced to face the truth about her husband, and herself.

    A very slow starter of a book, quite hard to read at first as none of the speech in encased in quotation marks, but once you get past that first chapter it’s an exceptional book that draws you in! It’s not the kind of book I would pick to read by a long shot, but I am so glad I stuck with it. It may be set over half a century ago, but some of the things Margaret goes through in her marriage and her relationships still rings true today. It really grips your thought processes and I defy anyone not to identify with her.

    I give it 4 glasses – that’s how good it is.


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