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Matrimony: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – August 26, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030727716X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277169
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,518,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1987, Manhattan-reared hothouse flower Julian Wainwright matriculates at the alternative Graymont College for the express purposes of attending Professor Stephen Chesterfield's exclusive fiction writing workshop. As Chesterfield dryly infuses his writing wisdom, Julian befriends the cocky, aloof, lesser-born Carter Heinz when they are the only two to whom Chesterfield gives the nod. Carter soon meets Pilar in the cafeteria; Julian meets Mia in the laundry room. Carter's simmering class resentment of Julian surfaces. Senior year finds the two couples living next door to one another and plotting their futures. Henkin (Swimming Across the Hudson) subsequently follows the lovers for the next 15 years through countless college towns, family dramas, failed literary projects and the dot-com boom. Many scenes are too long, and never get below the surface of the cast, particularly wannabe-litterateur Julian. But for a book called Matrimony, Henkin offers surprisingly little about Julian and Mia's marriage, so when big confrontations do arrive, they quickly slide into melodrama. By then, lines like But I don't want to get my M.F.A. Can't you understand that? I've already been in enough writing workshops will have cleared the classroom. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

Toward the end of Henkin’s second novel, Julian, who has just arrived at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, finds that the other students do not like his work. "The story was quiet; all his work was," Henkin writes. "He had nothing against muscular prose; it was the flexing of those muscles that he objected to, and, along with it, a disregard for character." The passage encapsulates Henkin’s telling of the story of two couples who meet in college and quickly fall into domestic arrangements that they keep for years to come. On their path to middle age, momentous events occur, but Henkin gives equal space to the unmomentous, and everything is related in the same measured tone. Although the mundane sections tend to fall flat, when Henkin handles material with more inherent drama, like the sickness and death of one character’s mother, his quiet approach pays off.
Copyright © 2007 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

I found the characters of Mia and Julian to be very enjoyable and the story well plotted out.
A. Pohren
I read perhaps 50 pages, and while I enjoyed the story, I was scheduled to go on a trip; this book wasn't one that made the cut and thus was left behind.
Gretchen Laskas
I felt the same way I feel after reading a chick lit book, like it is a sitcom, not meant to challenge me, to change me or to evoke too much thought.
Bethany L. Canfield

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth on September 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Matrimony is a moving portrait of a marriage that is tested through the years by jealousy, loss, and betrayal. The story follows Mia and Julian, who meet in college and tie the knot soon after graduation. As they make their way from New England college town to Midwestern college town and finally to New York, they discover that long-dormant secrets and old rivalries can tear into the fabric that holds a marriage together.

Henkin's straightforward, reserved prose strikes just the right tone, so that the story is touching, but never maudlin. He has a witty take on the singular world of writing workshops and the writer's struggle to create. Henkin also deftly tackles issues of class and family history, how those things can shape our lives and sometimes haunt us. A deeply felt story and an excellent read.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. Brown on November 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Matrimony is well written but the characters don't ring true. I almost gave up after a few chapters because the college kids' conversations seemed more suited to thirty-year-olds. Would 19 year olds Julian and Carter REALLY have been that inspired by John Cheever's work in 1987? Wouldn't more likely influences have been Raymond Carver, John Irving, Jay McInerney, or Brett Easton Ellis? I thought when the characters did get older in this book I would be more interested but it's just a mostly dreary account of the ups and downs of an ordinary marriage. The reason the two separate after many years of marriage seems implausible...you split up with a girlfriend or boyfriend over something like that, not your wife of six years or whatever it was. John Irving wrote a classic, much more memorable treatment of a would-be novelist and his academic wife in The World According to Garp almost thirty years ago, which I would recommend over this.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Matrimony is the first novel I've read in quite a while, and it reminded me of why I can't subsist on a nonfiction-only diet. Like all great novelists, Joshua Henkin casts a spell that doesn't wear off until long after you've finished the book. There are no gimmicks here, no attempts to dazzle and distract with flashy prose. Instead, you'll find the beautifully crafted and heartbreakingly realistic story of a young writer, Julian Wainwright, trying to negotiate art and life. In telling Wainwright's story, from college into middle age, Henkin also tells much larger stories about love and betrayal and about how our class backgrounds often define us in spite of ourselves. For anyone interested in writing, this novel also comes with a nice bonus. Henkin is a creative writing professor and in his account of the ups and downs of Wainwright's literary journey, he's slipped in a good deal of wisdom on how to write well.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Groner VINE VOICE on November 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Henkin deliberately steers away from dramatic effects and literary pyrotechnics. This is a quiet book in which few voices are raised even at moments where the reader would expect intensity of feeling. Julian and Mia, his central characters, navigate through life's difficulties as well as they know how. They cope with the hands that they are dealt - Julian's aloof investment-banker father, Mia's mother's death from breast cancer - mostly by hesitantly talking things through. In a key scene, when Mia reluctantly confesses to Julian an earlier infidelity, they simply talk. No dramatics here: In fact, Henkin writes, "There was so much more to say, but he had no idea what to tell her, and it seemed as likely that they'd spend the whole day locked in their bedroom in silence."

But in his quiet way, Henkin builds his characters slowly and incrementally, letting them speak for themselves and permitting them to develop over the course of nearly two decades of life. Julian and Mia become real people that the reader begins to know well as they grow naturally from a college-dorm infatuation to a certain mid-thirties maturity. In a way, Henkin has made a more audacious choice in permitting his novel to proceed in this fashion rather than in a noisier manner. Henkin is writing a novel that is at least in part a novel about how to write a novel, and Julian, plagued by writer's block, seems to an extent a stand-in for the author. In crafting this novel, Henkin is implicitly showing us the choices Julian has made. He successfully avoids the trap of boring his readers with countless domestic specifics; instead, those same details of clothing, popular tunes, dormitory furnishings, and the like serve to make Julian and Mia more credible.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dena Straughn on October 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Josh Henkin has created art -a beautiful mosaic of brokenness that has resulted from tragedies, human weakness, and the every day life (changes, family conflicts and losses, betrayals, and successes)of the wonderfully flawed and likeable characters,cemented together by a deep abiding love between the protagonists, Mia and Julian. "Matrimony" is realism at its best, rich in wry wit and strong emotion. Henkin's masterful command of language brings laughter, smiles, frustration, and perhaps tears to the reader. Without reservation, 5 stars.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E-M Wasser on October 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you are not currently in a book club Joshua Henkin's much anticipated second novel Matrimony is the reason to start one! Henkins ability to make the reader feel as though they are in the moment along with the characters is what makes Matrimony a story that will resonate with you long after the book is back on the shelf. I didn't want to say goodbye to Mia and Juilian, and as the weight of the pages shifted, and I could see the conclusion out of the corner of my right eye I found myself reading more slowly in order to savor every moment. Upon completion I felt the need to share the experience with everyone, I will have to buy a second copy to lend out to friends, this one is mine to treasure.
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