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Le Mariage Hardcover – April 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; First Edition edition (April 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525945180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525945185
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,136,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In the delicious Le Divorce, Diane Johnson's heroine dipped her American toe into the unfathomably deep waters of French culture. In Johnson's follow-up, Le Mariage, we plunge right in and swim among American expatriates and French high society types as they try to navigate relationships with one another. The novel makes references, both overt and oblique, to one of the great achievements of French culture, Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game, a film that steps lightly between farce and tragedy. Le Mariage does the same.

The story centers, like Anna Karenina, around two couples. Anne-Sophie, a bon chic, bon genre Parisienne who sells equestrian-themed antiques at the flea market, is engaged to Tim, an American journalist, "one of those large pink-cheeked rugby-player types." Clara, also an American, is a film actress married to her director, the brilliant Serge Cray. The two lead a reclusive life on the outskirts of Paris until their serenity is broken by a couple of events: following a well-publicized murder, a couple of American tourists drop in on the Crays and won't leave; and Clara is arrested for desecrating a national monument, when all she was trying to do was decorate her house.

These various settings--the flea market, the director's chateau, even the jail--allow Johnson ample room for the kind of Francophile fieldwork for which she is so justly famed. The engaged couple in particular provide lots of scope for details of Paris life: "One particular day, Tim suddenly knew he had found their apartment, on the Passage de la Visitation--the name itself so charming, the arrondissement so correct.... His heart lifted with the optimistic sense of the future that only real estate can bring." Minor characters abound, such as Anne-Sophie's mother, who writes the sort of hilariously intellectual dirty novels only the French can produce. Johnson delights in identifying such types, and sends them up with relish.

As in Le Divorce, Johnson delivers a trumped-up ending--this time at the Crays' chateau, where the rehearsal dinner for Anne-Sophie and Tim's wedding turns into a genteel French shootout--or, rather, standoff. The author has earned her finale this time, though. At the beginning, she asks the question that haunts all innocents-abroad novels: "Perhaps there are no natural contradictions between the French landscape and the Americans who inhabit it so diffidently, but it often seems that Americans would do well to stay out of what we do not understand. Or is it we who bring the harm?" This time, more explicitly than ever, Diane Johnson makes her answer an emphatic yes. And in doing so, she lays claim to the legacy of Henry James that has been linked with her name since Le Divorce. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

Even more knowing and perceptive than Le Divorce, Johnson's second novel about American expatriates in France is another wickedly clever comedy of manners. Her amused irony infuses this story of two romantic relationships. Good-natured Tim Nolinger, an easygoing journalist of mixed American and Belgian ancestry, is engaged to adorable Anne-Sophie d'Arget, who runs a boutique selling equestrian memorabilia in the Paris flea market. When Tim pursues a story about a stolen medieval manuscript called the Driad Apocalypse, their lives intersect with those of a former American film star, Clara Holly, and her husband, famous and reclusive director Serge Cray, who live in a ch?teau in the suburbs of Paris. Peripheral characters include Anne-Sophie's mother, a cynical Parisienne novelist whose romance novels contain platitudinous advice about love that her daughter takes seriously; various members of the American community in Paris; the villagers of Etang-la-reine, who resent the rich property owners from the States and whose anger about the loss of their hunting rights triggers a plot against the Crays; two visitors from Clara's hometown in Oregon, and the members of a millennium cult there, who are pivotal in the drama of the purloined papers. What will be even more satisfying to Johnson's fans is the appearance of a character from Le Divorce, the dashing Antoine de Persand. In six degrees of separation, everybody is connected, yet the coincidences are artfully managed. Johnson's crisp manipulation of the engagingly convoluted plot is rooted in her central theme of French misconceptions about Americans, and vice versa. As exemplified by Holly and Cray, even those who share the same culture habitually fail to estimate the other accurately. Johnson's barbs are sophisticated and sharp, her amused irony is easily maintained, and her finesse at narrative is as fine tuned as her cultural sensitivity and her instincts about human behavior. As the novel ends, it is not surprising that le mariage of Anne-Sophie and Tim seems doomed by misunderstandings, but an adulterous liaison between two other characters conveys the mesmerizing passion of true love. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I kept reading along, hoping it would get better, but it just got worse.
Holly J. Fujie
Any success this book has enjoyed is due only to readers' yearning for another Divorce and not to the actual quality of Le Mariage.
I didn't like any of the characters, the plot never really developed, and there was no resolution.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Serendipity on January 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The packaging of the book is misleading, first of all. The raving reviews on the back are not even for Le Mariage, but for Le Divorce! Also, it is not a sequel to Le Divorce. I'm even beginning to wonder if this book is by the same Diane Johnson who wrote Le Divorce. Some clues point to yes-many elements of the book are reminiscent of Le Divorce: there are wealthy Americans in Paris (starring a housewife once again), lack of communication between husband and wife, "film folk," faïence, mentions of les petits soins, crime, sex, shock-value swear words, and unrealistic dialogue (how many twenty-somethings do you know who actually say the word "shall"?). Although the characters and story line are new, the themes are repetitive. The book is not horrible, but when you're expecting something as superbly crafted as Le Divorce, you can only be greatly disappointed.
It reads as if it were cranked out on a tight deadline and then re-arranged with an over-worked editor. There are several editorial errors and misinformation about France or the French language. The French never say "ooh la la," but rather "oh la la" (which they spell "ho la la" in French). And they DO have their own version of Kraft singles, a similar kind of processed, packed-by-the-slice cheese intended for use in croque monsieurs (which bear a striking resemblance to grilled cheese sandwiches in more ways than one). Johnson also mistakenly explains that the French way of pronouncing the word "pointe" (as in Grosse Pointe) is "pwahn." Wrong! Anyone who speaks French knows that the "T" is not silent as it is followed by that ever-powerful "E." I hope this error was that of an ignorant editor and not of Diane Johnson herself. Oregon does not have ice storms every year, either, or even every other year.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By andy bailey on April 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In her follow-up to Le Divorce Diane Johnson gives us another sharply honed comedy of manners set in the drawing rooms and country estates of modern-day Paris that would make Jane Austen and Henry James proud. She's an expert at revealing the cultural barriers that divide France and America though unlike its more solid and satisfying predecessor, Le Mariage suffers somewhat from the weight of an overly contrived plot. The story focuses on a young cross-cultural couple, a Parisian antiquities dealer and her half-American, half-Belgian fiancé, who gets whisked into seemingly disparate scandals involving hunting laws, a stolen manuscript and some millennial conspiracists from Oregon in the hectic weeks leading up to their lavish wedding. A six-degrees-of-separation plot device connects Anne-Sophie d'Argel and Tim Nolinger with a colorful, Altmanesque swath of supporting characters, including a reclusive French-polish film director living in a quaint chateau outside Paris and his Oregonian wife who's accused of defacing a national historical monument in the name of home decoration. Throw in a moody, semi-handicapped American tourist from Oregon accused of murder, a French historical novelist prone to highbrow sexually explicit prose and a randy French landowner aching to explore marital infidelity and you get one of the motliest crew of fictional characters at least since Le Divorce. Too bad their contrived connections often deny credibility. The concise, measured prose on display in Le Mariage is what ultimately saves the day: Johnson writes with a savage wit that recalls the dark Hollywood novels of Bruce Wagner.Read more ›
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on May 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Following "Le Divorce," a National Book Awardfinalist, Diane Johnson's latest novel, "Le Mariage," isanother comedy of manners set in the expatriate American community inParis. Johnson, who divides her time between Paris and San Francisco, casts an insightful eye over the cultural differences, wholesale assumptions and misperceptions of national character embraced by the French and the Americans who live among them.
The story centers around the upcoming nuptials of American freelance journalist Tim Nolinger and his stylish French fiancée, Anne-Sophie. A horse-oriented antiques dealer, Anne-Sophie's bourgeois ambitions puzzle her famous novelist mother, Estelle, who cultivates a bohemian public persona while harboring highly practical concerns over Tim's ability to provide for her daughter...
The novel's framework, with its increasingly zany and convoluted but believable plot lines, offers a solid scaffold for the dynamics of relationship that feed Johnson's witty observations on marriage, infidelity, morality, bureaucracy and cultural chauvinism. Her humor is dry and tart, but, for the most part, sunny. And her characters are delightful. A sophisticated treat.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Trobador on January 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
While "Le Mariage" is no masterpiece, it is nonetheless an interesting novel, and not as bad a piece of work as some of these reviews would suggest.

Inevitably, it has to be compared with "Le Divorce", a more perfect achievement. In fact it is conceived, I believe, as a conterpoint or antithesis to that earlier work, and is intended to be read as such on some level.

In both novels we have various male members (ahem) of the de Persand family carrying on sexual relationships with American women. Central to "Le Divorce" is the outside affair that leads to the dissolution of the American heroine's marriage, and eventually to the murder of the "sinning" de Persand. BAD adultery... In "Le Mariage" another de Persand saves another American heroine from a loveless marriage with a cold, manipulative heel. GOOD adultery...

In fact, Ms. Johnson's thesis in "Le Mariage" is that true love, whether blessed by clergy or not, is more important and sacred than social convention -- not a new thought by any means, but intelligently and deftly worked out in this book. The allusions to the medieval literature of courtly love, which glorifies extramarital passion, are even made overt by the author in one of her chapters. Here, the heroine is a kind of saint on the altar of chevaleresque values (Clare Holly = Illuminated Holiness) and her transcendance and transfiguration take place in the bedroom with her lover. Their "aura" is stronger and truer than that of the other Franco-American couple who go through with the "legitimate", but nonetheless shaky and uncertain church marriage that is the book's erstwhile subject.
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