Private Life is a novel which spans a period of 50 plus years beginning in 1883. It follows the life of Margaret (Mayfield) Early, a woman who was considered a spinster at the age of 27. Fortunately, she was saved from that label when she met Navy captain Andrew Early, gets married and moves from Missouri to San Francisco, CA. In CA, Andrew works at a navel base where he manages the observatory. At first glance, Andrew seems perfect: a brilliant astronomer, fluent in several languages, and a man who has traveled the world. When they marry, he tells Margaret that a wife is only expected to " do what she is told the first year year of marriage". Margaret dutifully complies.
Margaret is a passive, reserved woman who seems afraid to speak up. She just seems content to watch life happen all around her. She has witnessed her share of personal family tragedies. She's also lived through an earthquake, a flu epidemic, and Pearl Harbor. Unhappy in her role, yet as time goes on she seems more accepting of her life. She busies herself in charity work, has a small circle of colorful friends, and the reader witnesses moments of joy in her life outside of her marriage. At one point, the highlight of her day is watching with fascination, some coots that flock to a pond every day. Wanting to capture this sight, she asks her friend Mr. Kimura to paint the coots for her. Then one day they suddenly disappear.
When their only child, still an infant, dies, Margaret and Andrew grow further apart. He becomes distant, rigid and eccentric to the point that she even begins to fear him. Margaret eventually begins to evolve, even though it took her over 30 years to do so.
At the beginning of the novel, I truly wanted to shake Margaret and say "wake up and do something", but by the end of the novel I began to have a having a better understanding of the woman she was. Although the novel was slow going in parts, many of the characters were hard to forget. Some readers might find the way the novel ended to be unsatisfying, however, I was glad I took the time to read this one. I thought the title fit the story perfectly. RECOMMENDED
4/5 stars - Review Copy