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Trust and friendship between two men...,
This review is from: When We Argued All Night (P.S.) (Paperback)I often wonder how any fiction gets written because it must be difficult for an author to come up with a time and place and characters. Most fiction writers take the easy way out and use stock characters - "the beautiful, wealthy, and brilliant young woman", "the handsome, wealthy, and brilliant young man", "the alcoholic/neglectful/battering/crazy mother/father/step parent/sister/brother", any character ripped off from Jane Austin, vampires, etc. Mix these stock characters together, along with a stock setting - NYC, LA, London, Regency England, or "the future" - and you have the average novel these days. And there's really nothing wrong with an author taking this route; it all depends on what s/he does with it. There are plenty of good novels written with these characters and settings.
But author Alice Mattison has taken a step from the conventional and has written a novel, "When We Argued All Night", peopled with characters we mostly haven't seen before. While being set in a time period often used- the post-WW2 period up to the present - Mattison's characters and her inventive plot takes her book away from the "usual". Arthur Saltzman and Harold Abramovitz - both born in 1910 and from Jewish immigrant families - are life-long friends. Sometimes in the course of the 60 year period of the book their friendship waxes and wanes but mostly they are there for each other. Both men have been scarred by the McCarthy years when they lost teaching jobs, but Harold has bounced back a little better than Artie, who winds up working in a family-owned shoe store til years later he regains his teaching job. Both men marry and have two children but the direction their marriages and children take are, again, different. The main meeting point in the novel - both literally and figuratively - is a primitive cabin in the Adirondacks.
This cabin, first owned by the lover of Harold's first wife and then by Harold and his second wife, is the place where lovers meet, suicides escape to, and arguers go to argue. And the arguing goes on between husbands and wives, men and men, women and women, mothers and sons, and almost any combination of people who stay at the cabin. But the arguing is interesting to the reader because of the subjects being discussed. Immigrant families, WW2, the McCarthy hearings and their effect on the characters' lives, and other life events - both banal and interesting - make up the plot of this book. Mattison's novel - issued in trade paper - was a pleasure to read. I'm going to read some of her back list; she's a contemporary writer with a good grasp of the unconventional.