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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of a Marriage
The Newlyweds is a cross-cultural love affair but not a romantic novel by any stretch of the imagination. It's more about misconceptions, misunderstandings and accommodations that come with relationships, compounded many times over when people come together from different backgrounds and with conflicting expectations. Amina emigrates to America to marry George, who she...
Published 22 months ago by Tamara L

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars She's done her research, but needs a bolder editor
Nell Freudenberger has clearly done her research but she really doesn't need to put every single fact into the book (do I really need to know the number and cost of US immigration forms?). She has created some believable characters, especially Amina, but too many seem to have no real part to play in the book or just confuse the story. OK real life is like that - random...
Published 12 months ago by SusanP


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of a Marriage, 25 Sep 2012
By 
Tamara L (North West England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Newlyweds (Paperback)
The Newlyweds is a cross-cultural love affair but not a romantic novel by any stretch of the imagination. It's more about misconceptions, misunderstandings and accommodations that come with relationships, compounded many times over when people come together from different backgrounds and with conflicting expectations. Amina emigrates to America to marry George, who she met on an online dating forum. Her plan is to bring her parents over as soon as she gains citizenship and becomes legally eligible and she can hardly envisage a life without them. Of course George, as a modern American husband, doesn't relish the idea of living with his in-laws and is reluctant to make the financial and other sacrifices it will take to bring it about. Further complications ensue when she discovers that George hasn't been entirely honest with her, and their relationship is tested by a number of setbacks, not least Amina's difficulty in conceiving.

It takes a brave writer to take on the persona of someone from another culture, ethnicity and religion and claim authenticity for their voice. I think Nell Freudenberger has pulled it off. No doubt there will be commentators with closer knowledge of Bangladesh who might pick holes in some of the details but her portrayal of Amina is convincing. This is a real flesh and blood character with heart and soul and the background is well-researched and avoids stereotypes.

I was surprised to see (at the time of writing) only one other five star review. For me this is first class writing and full of warmth and compassion for human frailty. Her tone reminds me a little of Anne Tyler, and the caught between two cultures - and two alternate futures - aspect of it was a little reminiscent of Colm Tobin's wonderful Brooklyn where Eilis faces a similar dilemma. Some reviewers have noted that the character of George isn't sufficiently rounded. I didn't have a problem with this at all. We don't get much of his interior life but then we see him through the eyes of Amina and she's just figuring him out for herself; disentangling the real George from his online persona and the generic American male with different values and habits from the people she is familiar with.

So definitely five stars from me. Reading it was pure pleasure and I am a little bereft now I have finished it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Observed, 23 Mar 2013
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Newlyweds (Paperback)
Amina Mazid is an attractive, nave twenty-four-year-old, living in Bangladesh with her parents and looking for a husband; however, apart from a teenage crush on the handsome Nasir, a close family friend, who is like a cousin to her, she has been unable to find the right man; that is until she joins an Asian-European online dating site and meets George Stillman, who is ten years her senior and lives in Rochester, USA. George, sensible, reserved and dependable, is looking for someone of a similar temperament and, after several months of online courtship, he decides Amina is what he is looking for. So, eleven months after their first contact, Amina arrives in America and the two of them marry soon afterwards - although not in a Muslim ceremony as George had initially promised.

As Amina tries hard to settle down in a strange country, she finds it tiring juggling work with her studies and with keeping house, but she also finds it difficult being fully intimate with a man who, although seemingly kind, has certain expectations of her and of their life together. And then Amina wants to bring her parents to the USA, but George seems rather less than enthusiastic about this plan now she is actually in America, which causes a lot of worry and heartache for her. Amina finds solace in her growing friendship with Kim, George's adopted cousin, a yoga instructor, who has lived in India and was married to an Indian man. However, when Amina discovers that Kim has been hiding a secret from her, a secret that deeply affects Amina, she feels shocked and betrayed - but what is more shocking is that George has also been hiding something from her which makes her seriously question their future together. And when Amina has the opportunity to meet up with Nasir again, she begins to wonder whether she has done the right thing in marrying George.

Inspired by a real life meeting and subsequent discussions between the author and a Bangladeshi woman, this is an intelligent, warm and wonderfully observed novel about the complications and misunderstandings that can occur in relationships, not just where the participants are of a different culture, but also when they are not entirely honest with others or, indeed, with themselves. Nell Freudenberger has created some convincing situations and some realistic characters for her story, especially Amina - but also Kim, whose own story, if further developed, would make a really interesting tale in itself. George is a more elusive character and we don't really get to know him or to fully understand his motivations, so it was more difficult to empathize with his situation. That said, I found this an absorbing, interesting and thought-provoking novel and would certainly be interested in reading more from this talented young author.

4 Stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sympathetic and insightful story of an internet marriage., 18 Oct 2012
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Newlyweds (Paperback)
Actually this is not so much the portrait of a marriage, more the portrait of a new life. Amina, an only child, has left her beloved parents in Bangladesh to take a giant leap into the unknown. An unknown man, an unknown country, an unknown and uncertain future. On an online dating site, an email relationship has developed between her and George who lives in Rochester, USA. For Bangladeshis, America is the promised land and Amina's parents encourage this blossoming romance. The book opens with Amina adapting to life in a new country where her dream of citizenship, a career and motherhood will not be complete without her parents.

I agree with every aspect of Tamara L's wonderful review and could not put it better. The first two-thirds of the book, set in Rochester, definitely had echoes of Anne Tyler. This, to me, is a Very Fine Thing. The last part of the book is set in Bangladesh and the culture clash between the two locations provides a truly fascinating counterpoint.

Nell Freudenberger has written a fully three-dimensional and immensely likable character in the petite shape of Amina. Indeed, I would say that all the people in this warm, engaging book are recognisably `real', even those with small 'walk-on' parts. I did have one small fear that Amina's childhood friend Nasir was going to develop into some sort of violent extremist; I can't tell you how relieved I was that the author resisted the temptation to introduce conflict of that sort. Not only that, but she turned the character around to be one of the most sympathetic in the book. This was deft writing and I must own up to my eyes welling up at one point and a real lump in my throat.

I give The Newlyweds 4.5* - only because of one section where an abrupt explanation of the various Bangladeshi family members seemed randomly dropped into the story at the wrong time and which rather jarred. Also because of the misleading cover but that is hardly the author's fault. Nell Freudenberger is a new writer to me and I shall be looking up her previous work as well as looking out for future books. She deserves a wide readership.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars She's done her research, but needs a bolder editor, 1 July 2013
This review is from: The Newlyweds (Paperback)
Nell Freudenberger has clearly done her research but she really doesn't need to put every single fact into the book (do I really need to know the number and cost of US immigration forms?). She has created some believable characters, especially Amina, but too many seem to have no real part to play in the book or just confuse the story. OK real life is like that - random happenings with no real connection, life's rich tapestry and all that - but in fiction I'd expect more tying together into an overall theme. There are too many irrelevant details (such as Amina's possible job in a restaurant) which are presented then never mentioned again. Also plot lines which seem unnecessary or unresolved - Kim's marriage to Ashok; George's real motivation in marrying Amina; Nasir's flirtation with radical Islam; the family feud; and an episode where Amina searches out Nasir's supposed love interest. There is a good book in here somewhere but it is completely lost in irrelevant and irritating background material which just raises questions. If you want to understand the culture try A Suitable Boy, or even A Passage to India. Or anything by Rohinton Mistry. (Mostly about India not Bangladesh, of course, perhaps the Deshi equivalent is still to be written.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars read h as lf of it so far, love it., 14 May 2013
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This review is from: The Newlyweds (Kindle Edition)
Great read.good description of characters and cultures. You feel the as author has researched well. My book club are reading it and all enjoying.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing story, 11 May 2013
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This review is from: The Newlyweds (Kindle Edition)
I really enjoyed losing myself in this story, feeling that I knee Amina and felt her sense of being a foreigner in her new life. A good example of the grass not necessarily being greener
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, 27 Dec 2012
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Charming, funny and sad in equal measure. Different to anything else I've read recently - really, really enjoyed this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Subtle and gripping, 15 Oct 2012
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This review is from: The Newlyweds (Paperback)
What a good book. It shows the comparative pluses and minuses of two societies without passing judgment (a rare skill). It also shows the dilemmas that face anyone who makes a decisive change in their life and considers whether it could be reversed. Anyone in a mixed marriage will appreciate it, but also anyone who has migrated between societies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully Observed, 4 Aug 2012
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Newlyweds (Paperback)
Amina Mazid, an attractive, nave, twenty-four-year-old, who is living in Bangladesh with her parents, is looking for a husband; however, apart from a teenage crush on the handsome Nasir, a close family friend, who is like a cousin to her, she has been unable to find the right man; that is until she joins an Asian-European online dating site and meets George Stillman, who is ten years her senior and lives in Rochester, USA. George, sensible, reserved and dependable, is looking for someone of a similar temperament and, after several months of online courtship, he decides Amina is what he is looking for. So, eleven months after their first contact, Amina arrives in America and the two of them marry soon afterwards - although not in a Muslim ceremony as George had initially promised.

As Amina tries hard to settle down in a strange country, she finds it tiring juggling work with her studies and with keeping house, but she also finds it difficult being fully intimate with a man who, although seemingly kind, has certain expectations of her and of their life together. And then Amina wants to bring her parents to the USA, but George seems rather less than enthusiastic about this plan now she is actually in America, which causes a lot of worry and heartache for her. Amina finds solace in her growing friendship with Kim, George's adopted cousin, a yoga instructor, who has lived in India and was married to an Indian man. However, when Amina discovers that Kim has been hiding a secret from her, a secret that deeply affects Amina, she feels shocked and betrayed - but what is more shocking is that George has also been hiding something from her which makes her seriously question their future together. And when Amina has the opportunity to meet up with Nasir again, she begins to wonder whether she has done the right thing in marrying George.

Inspired by a real life meeting and subsequent discussions between the author and a Bangladeshi woman, this is an intelligent, warm and wonderfully observed novel about the complications and misunderstandings that can occur in relationships, not just where the participants are of a different culture, but also when they are not entirely honest with others or, indeed, with themselves. Nell Freudenberger has created some convincing situations and some realistic characters for her story, especially Amina - but also Kim, whose own story, if further developed, would make a really interesting tale in itself. George is a more elusive character and we don't really get to know him or to fully understand his motivations, so it was more difficult to empathize with his situation. That said, I found this an absorbing, interesting and thought-provoking novel and would certainly be interested in reading more from this talented young author.

4 Stars.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Strange front cover., 27 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Newlyweds (Paperback)
A bit drawn out but interesting story. Some of it not very believable. Might be a good my book group read.
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The Newlyweds
The Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger (Paperback - 28 Mar 2013)
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