Memories of A Marriage: A Novel by Louis Begley – Book Review

Memories of  a Marriage by Louis Begley

After reading twisty and murderous marriage fare such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and A.S. Harrison’s The Silent Wife, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Louis Begley’s Memories of A Marriage. While just as insightful in showing how couples grow apart, or ignore glaring signs that they aren’t meant to be in the first place, Memories of a Marriage quietly explores the bitter dissolution of  marriage between an American heiress and her successful husband whose crimes against her seem to include being from modest beginnings.

The novels begins when Phillip, a writer and widower from the moneyed class, runs into Lucy de Bourgh, a Rhode Island heiress obsessed with the storied background of her once prominent family. Phillip knew a vivacious, flirtatious Lucy from his post-grad days in Paris, where she was quick to throw a party, and often just a tad risque. Lucy reintroduces herself to Phillip at a chance encounter at the ballet. Having met her husband, Thomas Snow, numerous times he is surprised to hear her refer to him as a “monster” and is overcome with curiosity about her reason for doing it. During lulls in writing his latest book he become obsessed with excavating the reasons behind their failed marriage and spends the summer interviewing not only Lucy, but any former friends who also knew the couple.

When I first started reading Memories of a Marriage, I wasn’t sure whether I would like it. Phillip and Lucy are similarly absorbed with lineage, background and breeding, and a good amount of time is spent detailing the clubs they belonged to, where they summered, and who knew whom and when. Just when I thought it would be a never ending catalog of the wealthy, their toys and quibbles, it takes on a surprising depth. While much of the novel examines Lucy’s choices, sexual obsessions, emotional health, and money squabbles, it’s ultimately about connections, loneliness and obsession. While Phillip as narrator focuses on Lucy, readers will be equally intrigued with the plight of the lonely, older gentleman trying to get the story. Recommended.

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