Memories of a Marriage; Louis Begley
Nan Talese - 2013
Memories of a Marriage is narrated by Philip, a novelist who has recently lost the love of his life to cancer. Now in his golden years, somewhere around the age of 70, fond memories of Bella and also his young daughter who died help him through the rough times. Philip and Bella did everything together, they traveled extensively and even shared office space (Bella was also a writer).
One day while Philip was attending the ballet, he runs into Lucy De Bourgh, a Rhode Island heiress that Philip knew from his post grad school days in Paris, and a woman who he and many others had a one-night stand with. Lucy was a trust fund baby and a woman with quite the reputation back then. She married Thomas Snow, whose family was beneath her social status and breeding. Snow’s father was a Newport, RI garage repair owner and his wife a bookkeeper. Despite this, Thomas made it big - he graduated from Harvard and had a successful career as an international investment banker and economist. Lucy and Thomas divorced, and although Thomas remarried, he has since passed on.
Lucy and Philip begin talking after the ballet and Lucy begins speaking negatively about her former husband and their marriage, referring to him as a "monster". Philip is shocked and curious about how he could have had such a different impression of what their life together was like. As the two begin seeing one another, Philip becomes more and more obsessed about finding out more about the couple he thought he knew. Each time they meet the bitter Lucy adds a new piece to the puzzle. Philip begins to speak with old friends and family who knew the couple to find out more. He even learns that Thomas’s second wife, Jane, had a totally different opinion of Thomas and of their life together.
This was a very different story from anything I’ve read recently. Lucy is an unlikable character to the extreme. The pace is slow, the dialogue is long, yet somehow it seemed to work. The slow pace worked, older people reflecting on their memories of life and love. Just under 200 pages, there is no real action in the story, but it leaves you with much to think about. [Only the couple in the marriage knows what it’s really like.] It makes you think about the choices we’ve made and how we react when we realize our marriage is less than ideal. Do we leave the relationship, stay together, grow bitter or do we accept the fact that no one is perfect and remain together making the best of it.