Jane Smiley's characters are what make Private Life a novel to read more than once. Her style is not showy you might call her a "good plain American prose stylist" the way you would call someone a "good plain cook." Her plotting is not full of confusing turns or big reveals or romantic yielding. But her characters are masterful constructions, as intelligent and surprising as real people can be.
Although Private Life isn't being marketed as a "retelling" of George Eliots Middlemarch, the way A Thousand Acres was billed as a modern King Lear, Smiley is clearly drawing on the legacy of George Eliot here. (Eliot hasnt come up in the publicity surrounding Private Life yet, but Smiley has said in the past that Middlemarch is her favorite novel, and she writes extensively about it in Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel, published in 2005.) ...
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