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Sven BirkertsPrivate Life reflects the pressures of the larger world on the most intimate aspects of personal existence. Andrew's delusions intensify, and Dora and Pete become Margaret's most important emissaries from the outside. As World War II breaks out, there are more wrenching developments. Smiley lets these events infiltrate her narrative even as she keeps Margaret's sad marriage squarely in the foreground. Through every scene and revelation, she keeps in mind the moment she's building toward: the completion of Margaret's long-deferred self-recognition. What she finally delivers has a Jamesian twist of the unforeseen, but it's achieved with a sureness of hand that's all her own.
—The New York Times