Ann Patchett - This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (5 stars)

Elegantly crafted pieces making for a direct, thoughtful and uncynical love story

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Ann Patchett - This is the Story of a Happy Marriage

(Bloomsbury)

From almost any other author, that title would be the heavily ironic cap on a tale of marital strife and family dysfunction. Yet Ann Patchett is blissfully, intelligently uncynical: the title essay in this memoir collection does, indeed, tell of her contented marriage and how her husband makes her a better person. But getting there – after painful divorce, years of doubt and serious illness – was no easy happy-ever-after, and her love story is told with a sense of wonder: how, of all the choices in life, did she come to be where she is?

Patchett’s introduction modestly presents her non-fiction writing (first for teen mag Seventeen, then for women’s and travel monthlies) as a day job that supported her ‘real’ work until her career took off with the Orange Prize-winning novel Bel Canto. But the virtues of her novels can equally be found in these elegantly crafted pieces about dogs, opera, Winnebagos, bookshops, writing and other personal topics. Each sentence is direct and thoughtful, and often terribly funny; she has something new to say about even such apparently ordinary subjects. A real treat.

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