Inspired by our book of the month, A Better Man by Leah McLaren, I’ve picked my top five books about marriage. This was really difficult because there are SO many – so, chip in with your favourites…
1. An Impossible Marriage by Pamela Hansford Johnson
I adore this novel. Written in the 50’s, set between the wars, it’s the story of Chris, a painfully middle class girl living in Clapham, working as a secretary. That is, until she meets the much older Ned Skelton, and all of a sudden is married to him. However, is this really what she wants? And is Ned all that she thought he was when he was woo-ing her? A total joy to read (and a steal on kindle at just £1.89 – yes, yes, she’s a Curtis Brown author!), this is a book for any fans of Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Pym or Elizabeth Jane Howard.
2. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
The story of Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, it’s set in 1920’s Jazz Age, and is replete with the glamour you’d expect of the era. However, it’s actually a touching and affecting insight into a marriage which was immensely troubled, and follows the couple in – you guessed in – Paris as Hemingway finds success and other women…
3. Season to Taste: or, How to Eat Your Husband by Natalie Young
Not one for the faint of heart, this has one of the most incredible heroines. Lizzie Prain was a totally ordinary housewife: she ran a little cake business, baked a lot, had a dog, lived in a cottage in the woods. That is, until she killed her husband on impulse, and had to work out how to get rid of the body… What sounds like a sinister and macabre book is actually very funny and brilliantly written – definitely unlike any other marriage book you’ll read.
4. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
In 1980’s American college, Madeleine Hanna is devouring the pragmatic realist plots of George Eliot and Jane Austen and thinking on the motivations of the very human heart. However, it being the 80’s, she is surrounded by readers and lovers of theorists (Derrida fans – this one’s for you) – one of whom, Leonard, suddenly becomes a BIG part of her life. And so – inevitably – she begins to question the traditional marriage plot, and tries to formulate her own marriage plot – however convoluted that may be. It’s not one for everyone, but I loved this rather pretentious, sometimes clunky, thought-provoking novel.
5. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
A slip of a novel, it opens in a hotel on the Dorset coast – that’s right, on Chesil Beach – where our protagonists, Edward and Florence are sitting down to dinner on their wedding night. However, neither is quite prepared for what is to come – the tim
e to retire to bed looms – and their naivety makes for a toe curling yet compelling novel. As their history unfolds through seamless flashbacks, this novella tells a rich and touching story.
A Better Man by Leah McLaren is our book of the month for August, and is available for purchase from Corvus.