From Publishers Weekly
In this astute and engrossing examination of seven artsy marriages from 20th-century England, Roiphe (Last Night in Paradise
) couples her penchant for social criticism with her training in English literature (she holds a Ph.D. from Princeton). The book's title is apt, for some of the unions Roiphe describes may strike even today's jaded readers as outré. Feminist writer Vera Brittain proposed that she and her husband, George Catlin, be joined in their household by her dear friend, Winifred Holtby. Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murry found that their highly romantic conception of love failed to sustain them through illness and other crises. Roiphe also examines the unions of H.G. Wells and Jane Wells; Elizabeth von Arnim and John Francis Russell; Clive and Vanessa Bell; Ottoline and Philip Morrell; and Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge. Roiphe writes not just as a disinterested historian. She wants to know what she can learn from Brittain and the rest about marriage, and the themes Roiphe focuses on remain relevant to 21st-century marriages: is domesticity compatible with long-term emotional engagement, or are marriages destined to become boring? Roiphe finds that once people began to think of marriage as an arrangement that ought to produce human happiness, monogamy was no longer a given. Fans of Pamela Paul and Cathi Hanauer will enjoy this volume, which is vintage Roiphe: provocative, dishy, substantive and fun. (July)
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What is it that makes intimate portraits of failed relationships so fascinating? Katie Roiphe doesn't romanticize or make excuses for her complex subjects and their entanglements but treats them with wit, warmth, and respect. Despite a few historical inaccuracies and questionable assumptions, critics considered Roiphe's perceptive exploration of unconventional marriages in the early 20th century a success. It can be difficult to empathize with the selfish and arrogant people who populate this book, but these revealing accounts are nevertheless captivating, the narrative intelligent and absorbing. Roiphe has done her research and produced an elegant, provocative, and entertaining description of an era and some of its more eccentric denizens.Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.