Memories of a Marriage: A Novel

Memories of a Marriage: A Novel

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by Louis Begley
     
 

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By the author of the beloved Schmidt series, Memories of a Marriage is a penetrating look at class and privilege, shifting from Paris to Manhattan, Long Island to Newport. Mourning his wife and daughter, and on the edge of old age, Philip reencounters an astonishing woman from his past: Lucy De Bourgh, an heiress who was once a passionate debutante and the…  See more details below

Overview

By the author of the beloved Schmidt series, Memories of a Marriage is a penetrating look at class and privilege, shifting from Paris to Manhattan, Long Island to Newport. Mourning his wife and daughter, and on the edge of old age, Philip reencounters an astonishing woman from his past: Lucy De Bourgh, an heiress who was once a passionate debutante and the intimate of many men, including Philip himself. As she reveals the startling details of her failed marriage to Thomas Snow—a townie turned powerful international banker, liked by many but to her a loathsome monster—Philip discovers a story that will challenge his assumptions about those he has known, admired, and desired. A triumph by an author expert in revealing the good breeding and bad behavior of the moneyed elite, Memories of a Marriage is an eloquent and irresistible book that explores all the varieties of love and the very concept of truth.
 
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Praise for Memories of a Marriage
 
“Among contemporary novelists, [Begley] may be the wryest, most devastating critic of class in American society.”The Washington Post
 
“Engrossing . . . Louis Begley gives us a chance to see into . . . the most private recesses of another couple’s marriage.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“This delicious, dazzling novel about the rise and fall of a great American debutante kept me up all night.”—Susan Cheever
 
“A consummately constructed monument to human imperfection.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 
“[Begley is] an elegant stylist with a dry wit and a merciless eye.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“A fiendishly clever, Fitzgeraldesque tale about marriage, friendship, gossip, and self-justification.”Booklist


From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Meg Wolitzer
…engrossing…Louis Begley gives us a chance to see into two different, often obscured worlds. One is the most private recesses of another couple's marriage. The other is high-WASP society—though most people don't usually even know where that particular unmarked door is, let alone get a chance to have it quietly shut in their faces…The pleasures of this novel reside not so much in where the "truth" lies as in its context. The world of the highly entitled at play and at work—seen traveling the globe over the decades, installing themselves in European hotels and joining exclusive men's clubs and marrying into families made up of "very much our kind of people"—remains irresistible.
Publishers Weekly
In this compact, voyeuristic novel, Begley (About Schmidt) creates his latest larger-than-life character in the beguiling but sharp-tongued socialite Lucy De Bourgh. During the spring of 2003, elderly narrator Phillip, a successful literary novelist, is attending the New York City Ballet when he bumps into Lucy, an old friend and occasional lover from his carefree days in 1950s Paris. A striking beauty and wealthy Rhode Island blueblood, Lucy charmed with her personality and humor and disregarded Eisenhower-era mores with her easy sexuality. Lucy now seems bitter, however, and shocks Phillip by calling her late ex, Thomas Snow, a “monster.” Although coming from blue-collar roots, Thomas attended Harvard, made his fortune as a savvy investment banker, and after the divorce, died in a boating accident. A lonely widower, Phillip becomes fascinated with Lucy and Thomas’s divorce, perhaps seeing a future novel in their breakup. Possibly, though, he just finds titillation in Lucy’s sensational past. Begley’s effortless storytelling will have readers equally fascinated by Lucy and Phillips’s complex, tangled relationship. Agent: Georges Borchardt, George Borchardt Inc. (July)
From the Publisher
"This delicious, dazzling novel about the rise and fall of a great American debutante kept me up all night. Begley knows everything about the secret lives of the American aristocracy, and he tells all." —Susan Cheever

"Absorbing ... [Begley] tells this tale with all the archness — and yearning — of a voyeur looking in ... His evocations of glistening mahogany in New York’s club rooms, of summering in the Hamptons, of oysters and whiting at the Paris Savoy have the clear ring of truth. He has observed the relevant mannerisms, and he garnishes his scenes with all the glee of a name-dropping arriviste ... Begley proves he is a master dissector of the American character. Among contemporary novelists, he may be the wryest, most devastating critic of class in American society ... Begley delivers a literary stiletto to what Tiffany or Crate & Barrel might blithely call 'the Gatsby set' ... Read it and weep." —Marie Arana, The Washington Post

"[E]ngrossing ... Begley gives us a chance to see into two different, often obscured worlds. One is the most private recesses of another couple’s marriage. The other is high-WASP society — though most people don’t usually even know where that particular unmarked door is, let alone get a chance to have it quietly shut in their faces ... The pleasures of this novel reside not so much in where the 'truth' lies as in its context. The world of the highly entitled at play and at work — seen traveling the globe over the decades, installing themselves in European hotels and joining exclusive men’s clubs and marrying into families made up of 'very much our kind of people' — remains irresistible." Meg Wolitzer, The New York Times Book Review

"[A] consummately constructed monument to human imperfection." —San Francisco Chronicle

"In this compact, voyeuristic novel, Begley creates his latest larger-than-life character in the beguiling but sharp-tongued socialite Lucy De Bourgh ... Begley’s effortless storytelling will have readers...fascinated by Lucy and Phillips’s complex, tangled relationship." Publishers Weekly, starred review

"A fiendishly clever, Fitzgeraldesque tale about marriage, friendship, gossip, and self-justification ... Begley, marvelously droll and possessed of a rapier wit, revels in his mercurial characters, intricate psychological puzzles, unreliable memories, counterintuitive class divisions, and all the mysteries and miseries of lust and love."Booklist

"Sharply observed and subtly nuanced ... It could pass as a novel from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s later decades, if Fitzgerald had lived so long."Kirkus Reviews

Library Journal
In this latest glimpse of the upper-crust terrain Begley knows so well (About Schmidt), a chance encounter at the ballet sends Philip on a book-long inquiry into the mental health and veracity of seventyish former debutante Lucy de Bourgh, the daughter of one of Rhode Island's first families. Philip, a successful novelist and the story's narrator, had known Lucy in their richly privileged youth, when she was a bit of a wildcat, promiscuous even. Lucy surprised all by marrying Thomas Snow, the Harvard- and London School of Economics-educated son of a garage owner and a bookkeeper. Thomas would become ultrarich, a world-renowned banker, but after the marriage failed, Lucy portrayed him as a social climber and "monster" (sexually, it seems). Philip, who knew Thomas well, tries to determine the truth; Lucy's erratic behavior should tip him off more than it does, especially when all other characters, including a well-centered second wife, see Thomas as kind and thoughtful. The "monster" question is ultimately never settled; at end as at beginning, it's all about egomaniac Lucy. VERDICT For ardent Fitzgeraldian Auchinclossians: take with caviar, Veuve Clicquot, a fine cigar, and white gloves for the ladies, please.—Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY
Kirkus Reviews
Autumn turns to winter in this novel about an author of the novelist's own generation, who reflects upon (among other things) the complex relationships between fiction and life, memory and truth. The latest from the venerable Begley (Schmidt Steps Back, 2012, etc.) lacks the scope and dark humor of his multivolume "Schmidtie" saga, but it is nonetheless as sharply observed and subtly nuanced as most of his writing in its focus on class distinctions and destiny among the Eastern elite. It could pass as a novel from F. Scott Fitzgerald's later decades, if Fitzgerald had lived so long. Its protagonist is Philip, an author of previously greater note, a widower who dearly misses his late wife, who was also a writer. Attending a ballet, he runs into an heiress whose reputation was compromised by her wild, erratic streak and whose ex-husband had died in an accident after a divorce that still left her bitter. Her name is Lucy, and Philip had once slept with her, which seems like a minor plot detail, because everyone had. The bulk of the narrative finds Lucy telling her version of her troubled courtship with and marriage to Thomas Snow, who was then her social inferior but later eclipsed her as a renowned businessman and economist. Both their son and the younger, prettier woman Thomas married after divorcing Lucy provide far different perspectives on the relationship, and those conflicting memories obsess Philip, who wants to fill in the blanks, untwist the contradictions and likely even write a novel with this marriage as raw material. (Perhaps even this very novel that Begley has written?) "But the book would be a novel," he assures Lucy, "not a memoir or reportage...a mosaic, made of slivers of glass or stone, some picked up as I went along and some I had fabricated." Since most of this novel is narrated through paraphrase--the protagonist's spin on what he heard the other characters say--the reader must decide how much he can trust the narrator, a man in despair over "the utter futility of my existence, the books I was writing included." Less interesting as a novel than as insight into the mind of a novelist.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385537483
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/09/2013
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
208
Sales rank:
865,185
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

LOUIS BEGLEY's previous novels are Schmidt Steps Back, Matters of Honor, Shipwreck, Schmidt Delivered, Mistler's Exit, About Schmidt, As Max Saw It, The Man Who Was Late, and Wartime Lies, which won the Hemingway/PEN award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His work has been translated into eighteen languages.

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Memories of a Marriage: A Novel 2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
voitek More than 1 year ago
Unless one happens to be a particularly shrewish, nasty, haughty society type and can read this as a rather boring biography of oneself, i can't imagine the appeal of the book. With a lead character so imminently unlikeable, i had at least expected some insight into what shaped her shrieking behavior but, in the end, got nothing. Proof of the validity of the adage "can't judge a book by its cover." words to live by. this book's cover was actually sort of interesting.