Private Life: A Novel

Front Cover
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010 - Fiction - 317 pages
24 Reviews
A riveting new novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winner that traverses the intimate landscape of one woman’s life, from the 1880s to World War II.

Margaret Mayfield is nearly an old maid at twenty-seven in post–Civil War Missouri when she marries Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early. He’s the most famous man their small town has ever produced: a naval officer and a brilliant astronomer—a genius who, according to the local paper, has changed the universe. Margaret’s mother calls the match “a piece of luck.”

Margaret is a good girl who has been raised to marry, yet Andrew confounds her expectations from the moment their train leaves for his naval base in faraway California. Soon she comes to understand that his devotion to science leaves precious little room for anything, or anyone, else. When personal tragedies strike and when national crises envelop the country, Margaret stands by her husband. But as World War II approaches, Andrew’s obsessions take a different, darker turn, and Margaret is forced to reconsider the life she has so carefully constructed.

Private Life
is a beautiful evocation of a woman’s inner world: of the little girl within the hopeful bride, of the young woman filled with yearning, and of the faithful wife who comes to harbor a dangerous secret. But it is also a heartbreaking portrait of marriage and the mysteries that endure even in lives lived side by side; a wondrously evocative historical panorama; and, above all, a masterly, unforgettable novel from one of our finest storytellers.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - froxgirl - LibraryThing

I read this back in 2010 and again in 2015, being utterly determined to read everything Jane Smiley ever wrote. The book is a remarkable exploration of an unsuccessful marriage, from 1883 to WWII, of ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - nyiper - LibraryThing

It's not that I didn't enjoy the audio version in giving this only 3 stars--it's just that Andrew's "work" became very tiresome within the story of Margaret's "wifedom." Probably the detailed extent ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
3
Section 2
5
Section 3
9
Section 4
17
Section 5
40
Section 6
46
Section 7
65
Section 8
71
Section 18
159
Section 19
167
Section 20
173
Section 21
178
Section 22
190
Section 23
207
Section 24
225
Section 25
227

Section 9
75
Section 10
85
Section 11
86
Section 12
87
Section 13
91
Section 14
94
Section 15
104
Section 16
135
Section 17
156
Section 26
257
Section 27
279
Section 28
294
Section 29
298
Section 30
313
Section 31
316
Section 32
321
Section 33
323
Copyright

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About the author (2010)

Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, as well as four works of nonfiction. In 2001 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature in 2006. She lives in Northern California.

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