Throughout Lily Tuck's career, she's been praised by critics for her crisp, lean language and sensuous explorations of exotic locales and complex psychologies. From Siam to Paraguay and beyond, Tuck inspires readers to travel into unfamiliar realms, and her newest novel is no exception. Slender, potent, and utterly engaging, I Married You For Happiness combines marriage, mathematics, and the probability of an afterlife to create Tuck's most affecting and riveting book yet.
"His hand is growing cold, still she holds it" is how this novel that tells the story of a marriage begins. The tale unfolds over a single night as Nina sits at the bedside of her husband, Philip, whose sudden and unexpected death is the reason for her lonely vigil. Still too shocked to grieve, she lets herself remember the defining moments of their long union, beginning with their meeting in Paris. She is an artist, he a highly accomplished mathematician - a collision of two different worlds that merged to form an intricate and passionate love. As we move through select memories - real and imagined - Tuck reveals the most private intimacies, dark secrets, and overwhelming joys that defined Nina and Philip's life together.
We never keep to the present. We recall the past; we
anticipate the future as if we found it too slow in coming and
were trying to hurry it up, or we recall the past as if to stay
its too rapid flight. We are so unwise that we wander about
in times that do not belong to us, and do not think of the
only one that does; so vain that we dream of times that are
not and blindly flee the only one that is. The fact is that the
present usually hurts.
- Blaise Pascal, Pensées (#47)
There is nothing more terrorising than the possibility that nothing is hidden. There's nothing more scandalous than a happy marriage.
- Adam Phillips, Monogamy
His hand is growing cold; still she holds it. Sitting at his bedside,
she does not cry. From time to time, she lays her cheek against
his, taking slight comfort in the rough bristle of unshaved hair,
and she speaks to him a little.
I love you, she tells him.
I always will.
Je t'aime, she says.
Rain is predicted for ...
Even though Tuck profiles a marriage at its most vulnerable and tragic moments, she also vividly portrays the pleasures and strengths of a marriage partnership. And the ending, although ambiguous and certainly surprising, is the perfect distillation of the novel's themes and preoccupations. Tuck writes both clearly and concisely about mathematics; her explications of complicated problems such as the Schrödinger's cat paradox dovetail nicely with the rest of the narrative, echoing, but never upstaging, the novel's other themes.
(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).
Full Review (1044 words).
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