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Nathans, S. (2011). The Story of a Marriage, by Andrew Sean Greer, Faber and Faber, 2008.. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 1(1):143-144.

(2011). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 1(1):143-144

Book Reviews

The Story of a Marriage, by Andrew Sean Greer, Faber and Faber, 2008.

Review by:
Shelley Nathans, Ph.D.

‘We think we know the ones we love’, writes Andrew Sean Greer in the first line of his 2008 intriguing and lyrical novel, The Story of a Marriage. This opening provides a provocative and welcoming note for the psychoanalytically informed reader by orientating us, at the onset, to some particular aspects of the unconscious underpinnings of intimate relationships: the architecture of fantasy, transference, repetition compulsion, and the idealisation that forms the structure of love.

We think we know them. We think we love them. But what we love turns out to be a poor translation, a translation we ourselves have made, from a language we barely know. We try to get past it to the original, but we never can. We have seen it all. But what have we really understood? (p. 3)

On the surface, The Story of a Marriage is a tale of a married couple and the troubling sexual triangle that envelops them. To this end, the novel succeeds, as it offers the reader a gripping story of dramatic tension and a portrait of the complex nature of a relationship. Described from the wife's point of view, we meet Pearlie and Holland, two teenagers in the rural south, whose intimacy develops in the perpetuation and maintenance of a secret. Holland is hiding in his bedroom, evading the draft during the Second World War. Pearlie visits him regularly, reading to him and providing a link to the external world. Years later, in the early 1950s, they have a chance meeting, marry, and have a child. The tension in the story is developed with the unexpected arrival of a friend from the past, who reveals a secret side of Holland.

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