The Marriage of the Sea

( 2 )


In a damp Venetian palace, Oswaldo contemplates the ravages of time to his body and his beloved city. In New York, Lach savors his freedom, having just dropped Vera to join his new love, Francesca, in Venice. In rainy London, Max packs for New Orleans, in pursuit of Lucinde, a woman he barely knows. From New Orleans, Lucinde flies to the aid and comfort of Vera, who has accepted a grant to paint in Venice. While elsewhere in the Crescent City, Anton, leaving for Venice, sketches a good-bye upon the slumbering ...

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The Marriage of the Sea: A Novel

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In a damp Venetian palace, Oswaldo contemplates the ravages of time to his body and his beloved city. In New York, Lach savors his freedom, having just dropped Vera to join his new love, Francesca, in Venice. In rainy London, Max packs for New Orleans, in pursuit of Lucinde, a woman he barely knows. From New Orleans, Lucinde flies to the aid and comfort of Vera, who has accepted a grant to paint in Venice. While elsewhere in the Crescent City, Anton, leaving for Venice, sketches a good-bye upon the slumbering body of his wife, Josephine. With wit, sympathy, and surpassing deftness, Jane Alison choreographs an intricate dance among these characters, whom love and loneliness, aspiration and desperation, have drawn to two famously romantic, venal, and elusive cities of water.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Beautifully balanced...Wrenching and beautifully written...A dreamlike, gorgeously watery novel." —San Francisco Chronicle

"Elegant, melancholy...absorbing." —Time Out New York

"Intriguing...flows with stylistic brilliance." —The Baltimore Sun

"Highly controlled the manner of Michael Cunningham's The Hours...Ambitious, complex, challengingly intellectual—and yet Alison manages it all with a clarity, learnedness, and rigor that brings into being a creation of real beauty...A real achievement." —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

"[An] intricate, elegant second novel." —The New York Times Book Review

The New York Times
Although I was keenly interested in the characters and their relationships, I was even more interested in the characters' relationships with their surroundings, past and present -- when, for example, they offered me a brief history of the color crimson or taught me the meaning of pavonazzo, the word for a color worn by Venetians during mourning. The most lasting union of The Marriage of the Sea is not, finally, between any of the characters but between them and the evanescent, seductive, heartless world they are seeking with such ardent specificity to inhabit -- and sometimes to leave. — Margot Livesey
The Washington Post
Jane Alison certainly is a writer to watch. — Robert Girardi
Publishers Weekly
Lovers part, strangers meet and fall in love, ambitions turn to desperation, hopes are betrayed, promises sundered and-in two cities slowly sinking into the sea-new beginnings blossom. The fulcrum of this novel is Oswaldo, a frail, elderly, and very rich Venetian. He funds a foundation that gives grants to artists. One recipient, Anton, a struggling architect nearing 40, reluctantly leaves his wife in New Orleans and goes to Venice on a grant to teach architecture. In Manhattan, artist Lach abandons his lover, Vera, and flees to Venice for a romantic rendezvous. But Vera has won a prize from Oswaldo's foundation, so she also embarks for Italy. Meanwhile, Max quits London for New Orleans, ostensibly to accept a chair in the History of Food, but primarily to woo Lucinde, an events planner. As soon as Max arrives, however, Lucinde flies to Venice to stay with Oswaldo, an old mentor of hers. Alison (The Love Artist) interweaves their stories in quick segues, each vignette succeeding the other like mounting waves in "the heedless sea." The narrative is suffused with sensuous references to art, architecture, food and the atmosphere-damp, moldy, mildewy-of both cities. Each of the characters is emotionally unmoored as well as physically in transit. The reader learns about each of them incrementally from the observations of the other characters; Shakespearean misunderstandings occur and suspense gathers. Alison's poetic sensibility reveals itself in lyrical, intense prose and surprising juxtapositions. Each character's feverish thoughts rise to a crescendo of emotional turmoil and release, and in the process, carry the reader on a sinuous journey of discovery. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
New Orleans architect Anton and his wife, Josephine, are going to extraordinary lengths to get pregnant. He must go to Venice for several weeks, but his contribution is in test tubes. Meanwhile, Josephine has a misunderstood encounter with Max, who left London to be in New Orleans with the elusive Lucinde. Lucinde travels to Venice, where she serves as companion to the elderly and wealthy Oswaldo, who wants to build himself an architectural monument in his waning days, so he hires Anton. In New York, talented artist Vera has just been dumped by Lach, who flies to Venice to be with his new love, Francesca. When Vera wins a prize to paint in Venice, she is commissioned by Oswaldo to do his portrait; thus, she crosses paths with Anton. Yes, you must pay close attention to the intricate plot. But in her second novel (after The Love-Artist), Alison wonderfully captures the romantically stymied antics of smart people who lack the emotional grit needed to figure out the relationship they are in before drifting on to the next. Their fluid, eroding liaisons run parallel to the watery decay of both New Orleans and Venice. Fans of Hugo and Dickens will gobble this up. Recommended for larger libraries.-Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Readers of Alison's wondrous bringing to life of Ovid (The Love-Artist, 2001) will find here the same highly controlled lushness in a contemporary story that starts slowly but gains power. In the manner of Michael Cunningham's The Hours, with its now-famous homage to Mrs. Dalloway, Alison's story follows sets of characters whose lives parallel, cross, sometimes touch one another. The sheer variety of people at the start can be frustrating: It isn't always simple to remember who's who as aging art patron Oswaldo wakes up in Venice; cook and food scholar Max leaves London for New Orleans to take up a university post but, more, to court the sensuous but elusive set-designer Lucinde; as artist Lach, in New York, breaks up with artist Vera-and then, for separate reasons, both go to Venice (where Vera will become old Oswaldo's portraitist); and as young and struggling architect Anton also heads for Venice, leaving behind his intellectually brilliant but almost intolerably sensitive wife, Josephine, just as she's resorting to a fertility doctor's unpleasant regimen-abdominal injections, for example-in a last despairing attempt to get pregnant. Alison's imagery (as in the Metamorphoses itself) is the imagery of change, erosion, disappearance, and loss, as both Venice and New Orleans, cities on the sea, sink slowly, becoming more and more permeated with water. Josephine, in fact, is a researcher of the great river, the dynamics of its assault on the city-while Anton, in Venice, will get (and lose) the chance to build a villa on the water for Oswald. Much, indeed, will be lost, drowned, eroded, and washed away before the close-the last of many fetuses; one adult life; numerous hopes and ambitionsboth artistic and romantic, intellectual and emotional, even historic. Ambitious, complex, challengingly intellectual-and yet Alison manages it all with a clarity, learnedness, and rigor that bring into being a creation of real beauty, albeit also of sorrow. Hers is a real and significant attempt, and a real achievement.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312422554
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 3/3/2004
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,214,409
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Jane Alison is the author of The Love-Artist. She lives in Germany.

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Read an Excerpt

The Marriage of the Sea

A Novel
By Jane Alison


Copyright © 2004 Jane Alison
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312422554

The Marriage of the Sea
Begin readingMax landed in New Orleans like a sprinter. His cab barreled over the toxic empty highway into town, the battered streets and battered sidewalks and battered, crooked houses. He'd chosen the most romantic hotel, just beyond the Garden District, lopsided and seedy. Once he'd checked in he ran up the staircase, noting with delight the stained glass promise in the window: Let my beloved come into his garden and eat his pleasant fruits! Then he had barely put down his bag, barely phoned Sea & Air to provide a temporary number (should his fur teacup and cookbooks and secondhand Paul Smiths be lost at sea in their nailed, stamped crates), before he washed his hands, looked at his teeth, tried to order his fly-away ringlets, paced once up and down the room, lifted the receiver, and dialed. He did it standing, bursting from his body, his mouth stretched in the same wide smile that had stretched it inanely that whole wondrous week. And there, miraculously, she was."Well!" she said, slowly but with an unmistakable exclamation mark. Which meant--? "So, Maximilian, you're actually here."Yes, yes, he tried not to babble, here I am, here I am, for you! He sat down on the bed, but one leg continued to jog and bounce so he clapped a hand heavily upon it."We'll have to see each other, then, won't we?" she said.Which meant--? Max stood up again. His mouth was open in a half-smile, poised to say the next giddy thing, but it went dry that way as, at her end, there was a sudden noise and her voice changed."Oh dear, I've got to run. Money's calling, can't be resisted. Call me back in a couple of hours."Max hung up, suddenly vague, and lay down, or rather unfolded, on the bed. He could hear people out on the porch downstairs. With one eye he studied the floor, which sloped. Perhaps he could smell margaritas from here. Suddenly he sneezed the way he always did, as if the sneeze had erupted from deep in the ground and shaken his whole body with force; he blew his nose noisily and shut his eyes, recovering.Thick air, very thick air you could almost see hanging--but better than London, certainly. Max looked at his watch and noticed that he had not yet adjusted it. This took some seconds. He got up and lifted the rotting window higher and looked out. The place seemed lazy, all those things it was famed for: Spanish moss, crumbling columns. A hum of voices, a certain smell--electricity, he realized, from the streetcar rattling by. Unknown plants all over. Reluctantly he went out for a walk.When he came back, he paced around the room a few minutes, whistling between his teeth, then arched, touched his toes, and called her again. No answer. He felt sick and lay down once more on the bed. He opened the Times Literary Supplement, which, folded, he'd banged upon his knee almost the entire Virgin Air flight, and now managed with it to consume more than an hour, until at last it was again time to call.She had changed her recording, just for him, which had a mixed effect. He was to call tomorrow, her voice said, so sorry she didn't have his number, so rude to make him keep calling.Now Max had an entire night. He drank two exceptionally salty margaritas on the porch downstairs, and thought of that island somewhere nearby that was supposed to be made of salt, and watched the news, which seemed very American. He ate not the best sample of red beans and rice. For a time he studied the different bottles of hot sauce, comparing ingredients and quantities of sugar and making a few notes about peppers; briefly but vividly he thought about how the heat trickled from the pepper's veins to its seeds, and how when people said pepper, most often they confused the capsicum with Piper nigrum itself, and how for true pepper (by which he meant Piper nigrum) men had once sailed all the seas, and how, in contrast, the flavor of paprika disappeared so quickly, poor little fugitive spice. Finally he trudged upstairs, fell asleep, and, without knowing it, snored violently.The next morning Max was all fresh and shaven at seven o'clock, ready to grapple bulls, all bright smile. And when he dialed her number, there it was, her live voice!"I'm so sorry, darling," she said. "I'm afraid we've missed. I'm leaving this afternoon for a meeting in New York, and then I'm on to Venice.""Ahh." A single note was breathed from him, an involuntary expiration, and without wishing it at all, he felt his mouth fall into that sad shape, that ghost from the old flat upstairs.But very well. He was here. She'd be back. Patience he'd always had.Copyright © 2003 by Jane Alison


Excerpted from The Marriage of the Sea by Jane Alison Copyright © 2004 by Jane Alison. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2009

    Boring is being kind

    I gave this book 100 pages to pull me in, and every one of them was painful. I never became involved with any of the characters and there were certainly enough of them that I should have cared about at least one. The chapters were short and disjointed. Running between the 8 characters in various points around the globe was exhausting. Terrible disappointment.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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