Private Life

Private Life

A Novel

Book - 2010
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As her husband's obsessions with science take a darker turn on the eve of World War II, Margaret Mayfield is forced to consider the life she has so carefully constructed.
Publisher: New York :, Alfred A. Knopf,, 2010.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9781400040605
Branch Call Number: FIC SMIL
Characteristics: 317 pages ; 25 cm


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Nov 09, 2015

I usually like Jane Smiley, but was disappointed in this one. I guess a book about a boring marriage is a boring book. Which this one definitely was. I would rat it PS. No violence or bad language, or explicit sex.

Sep 25, 2015

Not up to "A Thousand Acres" or "The Greenlanders," my favorite Smiley novels, but still excellent and heartbreaking. We follow Margaret from her small town Missouri girlhood and spinsterhood to her acquiescence in the matchmaking of two mothers in the 1880s. The mothers hope her life will be enlivened and his will be calmed. Andrew's the most famous man their small town has produced, but his fame as an astronomer plummets as his crackpot ideas and stubborn temper lose him jobs. By the time they marry, he's lost a job at U. of Chicago, and they head to a naval post in San Francisco Bay, where they're still stuck in WW II. Margaret tries to make the best of things, but gradually learns that Andrew's just not capable of looking beyond his telescope and grudges. His ultimate betrayal endangers her and the few friends she's been able to make. I found myself reading this in one gulp, sad as the story was, and the characters stuck in my head long after, even some of the secondary ones. What a strong writer, who knows how to make details count!

May 29, 2012

Rather slow at times but still a decent read.

Jul 19, 2011

This story is wonderful—telling the saga of a quiet Missouri-born (1878) woman as she gradually gains a voice. It’s thoroughly engaging. I liked the historical elements—especially imagining life around the turn-of-the 20th century in rural Missouri and in St. Louis—but more liked how fully it drew the development of this intelligent character. With this growth came her opportunities to enjoy a life, which, of course, pleases the reader, but also feels very believable. Compelling writing.

Mar 21, 2011

This was a long and painful read - and it's not even a long book! It was a book club pick, so I had to get through it, but thankfully I also had it on audiobook, so I was able to listen while doing just about anything else. Otherwise, I really don't think I would have made it through

Feb 26, 2011

A wifes gradual realization that her husband is not estude and a boring self centered companion.

Dec 15, 2010

Mentioned as a best book of 2010 in Sunday Star Times pC8 12.10.10 - based on Middlemarch.

debwalker Dec 08, 2010

A woman constrained by marriage to an eccentric scientist.

Dec 07, 2010

I almost forced myself to finish this book. The writing is "overcooked". It could have been more simple and more to the point. The characters are interesting enough but the story doesn't flow.

Oct 24, 2010

"Private Life"
by Jane Smiley

I almost forced myself to finish this book. The writing is "overcooked". It could have been more simple and more to the point. The characters are interesting enough but the story doesn't flow.


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