Marry Me (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 28 Feb 2008
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""Marry Me" is superb, sharp, witty, perceptive, honest. . . . With keen intelligence, Updike has cut a slice of life the width of one town, the height of one feverish summer, the depth of four people trying to understand why their center does not hold--and turned it into a mirror of our modern popular wisdom."--"Chicago Daily News" "Updike's most mature work . . . His writing has deepened, grown wiser and funnier, like a face that is aging well.""--The Atlantic" "It is, quite simply, Updike's best novel yet.""--Newsweek" "Marry Me is superb, sharp, witty, perceptive, honest.... With keen intelligence, Updike has cut a slice of life the width of one town, the height of one feverish summer, the depth of four people trying to understand why their center does not hold -- and turned it into a mirror of our modern popular wisdom."-- Chicago Daily News"Updike's most mature work. His writing has deepened, grown wiser and funnier, like a face that is aging well."-- The Atlantic"Exuberantly lighthearted, genuinely comic."-- Publishers Weekly"A dazzling performance, cleverly and beautifully written."-- Library Journal
From the Inside Flap
"It is, quite simply, Updike's best novel yet." NEWSWEEK
A deftly satirical portrait of life and love in a suburban town as only Updike can paint it.
"From the Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
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In the end I raced through Marry Me in two days - amazingly swiftly for an Updike - and loved all of it. It's really a series of long scenes between the two pairs of adulterers and adulterees, sometimes so long that you feel Updike is just turning the screws on these people (and on us) a little more than necessary. But it's devilishly entertaining to watch them perform at his whipstroke: arguing, making up, behaving predictably and unpredictably, deceiving and owning up, and never ever actually knuckling down to it and deciding what to do with their lives. The honesty and detail with which Updike presents them to us is breathlessly invigorating, the literary equivalent of sticking your head out the car window and feeling life rush by violently.
The characters are not admirable - the women alternately whiny, winning, sympathetic and pitiable; the men cruel, sincere, indecisive and confused - but they are plausible and fascinating. The combination of effortlessly elegant prose and wrenching emotional confrontations makes this the perfect marriage of heart and head.
As a novel, however, and especially as a romance (which it is and it isn't), 'Mary Me' doesn't quite cut it. The relationships, adulterous and otherwise, between the four protagonists are convincing and very realistically constructed - and perhaps herein lies the problem: they're all TOO realistic, too much like in life where, indeed, unhappy relationships do go on inexplicably for years, and married people who shouldn't be together do stay married, and spouses do love and loathe each other at the same time and often in equal measures, and people break up and make up and break up and make up and break up and make up and ... you get the gist. But when Updike tries to relay this in a novel, it feels like he's dragging his feet and the plentiful, minute, highly realistic episodes become rather cumbersome, and, unfortunately, utterly boring after a while. For example, far, far too much space is dedicated to waiting for a plane in a chaotic airport (though reading about it did feel exactly like the morose boredom one experiences when waiting for a delayed plane!) My least favourite part is the similarity with Couples: same characters, down to their physical appearance, and same plot, only much less of each. My favourite part was the ending, because I had to read it three times to make up my mind about which version was the correct one. See, I like shouting 'Whaaat?' at a book.
So, you'll love 'Marry Me' if you're into long, poetic prose descriptions - I mean, page after page of the lovely stuff; that's what Updike, the peerless wordsmith, did best. But you'll probably hate this novel if you want pace, page-turners, and likeable (or at least well-explained) characters. And you will definitely hate it if you're looking for a true love story, and if you want a clear resolution at the end of a book. As a whole, I didn't like it at all but can't give it less than 4 stars - it's too beautifully written.
Two couple have affairs with each others' spouses. Ruth and Richard quickly get over their affair but Jerry and Sally are sure they are in love and have an on-off relationship throughout the novel that causes pain and suffering to them and their partners.
The novel focuses on Jerry's vacillations between the two women, his lover Sally and Ruth his wife. That's the plot. Which will he choose...What will he lose if he leaves his (long-suffering) wife and children, what will he gain if he follows his heart and marries Sally. None of the characters are likeable, all are presented as truly real, changeable, nasty, selfless and heroic by turns, just as we all might be. There are no easy answers for Jerry, who, as a Christian faces the dilemmas other Updike characters do, torn between faith and desire.
For me though, the star of the novel is Updike's descriptive passages, beaches, skies, a crowded airport, the mood of summer's evening, the changing light on trees, the sea. He describes the physicality of his characters, the smell of their skin, the movement of their bodies, the effect of sights, sounds and impressions on them. All this is powerfully felt by the reader as they are drawn into the novel.
Perhaps sometimes Updike reads like a parody of himself, there is an intensity to the writing in its desire to communicate what it felt like to be there, that person experiencing life as lived. Forgive that and enjoy the novel for its language and brave attempt to write out what it was to be human in that place at that time.
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