Author: Joshua Henkin
Date Finished: Sept 4, 2008 #51
Thanks to my pal, Bookfool, for letting me borrow the following review format that she also borrowed. Thank you dear! (Edited: I had actually hoped this would make my review shorter, but alas. Deal with it!).
What led you to pick up this book? I've read a few stellar reviews (see below) of this book recently that when I received the opportunity to read it I took it! It was actually the previously mentioned Bookfool who got me interested in the book when she mentioned it was more of a character study, which I love in fiction. I've always been more of a character-driven type of gal rather than plot-driven.
Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Spanning 20 years, Matrimony follows the relationship of Julian and Mia from the very beginning when they meet in the laundromat through the bumps in the road that mold their relationship into what it eventually becomes. Because of the time span, there are several side stories that help shape the book and give it more depth. Really this book contains so much of what many of us can relate to--college years and finding ourselves, friendships that wax and wane, loved ones diagnosed with sickness, growing up and realizing things aren't how they seem when you are a child. Really, at 291 pages this book could have been much longer! Sometimes it felt like too much was being crammed into too few pages, and I would have liked to have seen some of the side stories develop a little more.
What did you like most about the book? After reading some crazy reads over the past month it was nice to relax over the long weekend with this one. You'll read elsewhere that it isn't action-packed, that a whole lot doesn't really happen in this book. And to be honest that was kind of nice. The book is about relationships--and of course things will happen in relationships and to relationships--but the meat of the story was how Julian and Mia grew both individually and as a couple throughout the novel.
What did you think of the characters? I had a difficult time relating to the characters and I didn't love either of them. I think given a longer novel I could have gotten to know them a little better and really come to appreciate what makes each of them tick. My favorite parts in the novel were when Julian and Mia were reflecting upon some of the things that had happened in their individual pasts (for example, Mia reflects upon a year she spends as a nanny in France). The strength of this novel certainly comes from when Henkin takes a deep look at the characters and really makes them come to life. The dialogue was a little bit "eh" for me--but then again I'm not really much of a dialogue person.
Recommended? All you have to do is click through some of the reviews below to see that people really love this book! And I can absolutely see why. I think I would compare it maybe to an Anne Tyler novel (don't shoot me if I'm wrong since I've only read one) or Anita Shreve's work (several of which I've read). I didn't love the book, but I think a lot of that comes from it being just too darn short!
Cover thoughts: Ha ha! Bathrooms freak me out. I am NOT a germ freak by any stretch of the imagination. But there it is. :) I much much much prefer the cover of the brand new paperback edition that was recently released. What do you think of the cover? Does is scream Wedded Bliss to you? Really it reminds me that I need to clean the bathrooms. Ha!
Visit Joshua Henkin's website HERE. Josh has written a few very interesting essays about book clubs and I think Matrimony would make a great pick for book clubs. The book is accessible and as I mentioned above we can all relate to a piece of the story. Josh has some great discussion questions posted (and you can see the fabulous paperback edition--which I will be giving away with Josh's help in a few weeks).
See what they thought:
Gautami (My Own Little Reading Room)
Bookfool (Bookfoolery and Babble)
Mrs. S (50 Book Challenge)
Heather J. (Age 30 - A Year of Books)
Dewey (Hidden Side of a Leaf)
Bethany (B&b Ex Libris)