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  - maryreinert - LibraryThing

Smiley's portrayal of a marriage between a woman with few options and an egotistic and foolish man is so well drawn it just almost painful to read at times. I don't think I have ever read any novel ... 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

All 3 reviews »

Contents

Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 17
Section 18
Section 19
Section 20
Section 21
Section 22
Section 23
Section 24

Section 9
Section 10
Section 11
Section 12
Section 13
Section 14
Section 15
Section 16
Section 25
Section 26
Section 27
Section 28
Section 29
Section 30
Section 31
Section 32

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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.

Bibliographic information