BookBrowse Reviews Private Life by Jane Smiley

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Private Life

by Jane Smiley

Private Life
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  • First Published:
    May 2010, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2011, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

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A riveting new novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winner that traverses the intimate landscape of one woman's life, from the 1880s to World War II

George EliotJane 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 Eliot’s 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 hasn’t 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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