Margaret Mayfield is nearly an old maid at twenty-seven when she marries Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early. He's the most famous man their Missouri town has ever produced: a naval officer and an astronomer-a genius who, according to the local paper, has changed the universe. Margaret's mother calls the match "a piece of luck."
Yet Andrew confounds Margaret's expectations from the moment their train leaves for his naval base in San Francisco, and soon she realizes that his devotion to science leaves little room for anything, or anyone, else. She stands by him through tragedies both personal and those they share with the nation. But as World War II approaches, Andrew's obsessions take a darker turn, forcing Margaret to reconsider the life she'd so carefully constructed.
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Number of pages: 496
Weight: 387 g
Dimensions: 198 x 126 x 31 mm
"Smiley's best novel yet . . . [a] heartbreaking, bitter, and gorgeous story of a woman's life stunted by marriage . . . Nothing is confined about this ambitious novel itself, however. Smiley makes dazzling and meticulous use of her historical scope; the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, the San Francisco earthquake, the World Wars, the influenza epidemic, the Japanese internment, the harnessing of electricity, the evolution of the automobile and the movies, Hearst and Einstein--all are gradually incorporated into her plot and themes. Even more admirable is her thoroughly convincing rendition of intimate details from the perspective of another era--the feeling of riding a bicycle when it was a new sensation, the subtle yet powerful machinations of a mother and future mother-in-law in arranging a marriage, the commonplace expectation of children's deaths."
--"The Atlantic Monthly"
"Extraordinarily powerful . . . In the course of this brilliantly imagined, carefully chiseled story
"Masterly. . . .[A] precise, compelling depiction of a singular woman." -"The New Yorker"
"Extraordinarily powerful. . . .It's not often that a work as exceptional as this comes along in contemporary American letters." -"Washington Post"
"Smiley's best novel yet. . . . [A] heartbreaking, bitter, and gorgeous story." -"The Atlantic Monthly"
"Remarkable. . . . With its quietly accruing power, "[Private Life" is] the kind of book that puts the lie to those who claim that great novelists produce their best work early and spend the rest of their lives gilding the lily." --"Chicago Tribune"
"Has a Jamesian twist of the unforeseen, but it's achieved with a sureness of hand that's all [Smiley's] own." --"The New York Times Book Review"
"Smiley's eye is keen, and the book's historical pageant is often mesmerizing and often elegantly composed. . . . A quiet tragedy." --"The Seattle Times"
""Private Life," perhaps Jane Smiley's best novel sin