Thursday, September 4, 2008

Matrimony - Joshua Henkin

Title: Matrimony
Author: Joshua Henkin
Date Finished: Sept 4, 2008 #51
Pages: 291
Rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to my pal, Bookfool, for letting me borrow the following review format that she also borrowed. Thank you dear! (Edited: I had actually hoped this would make my review shorter, but alas. Deal with it!).

What led you to pick up this book? I've read a few stellar reviews (see below) of this book recently that when I received the opportunity to read it I took it! It was actually the previously mentioned Bookfool who got me interested in the book when she mentioned it was more of a character study, which I love in fiction. I've always been more of a character-driven type of gal rather than plot-driven.

Summarize the plot but don't give away the ending. Spanning 20 years, Matrimony follows the relationship of Julian and Mia from the very beginning when they meet in the laundromat through the bumps in the road that mold their relationship into what it eventually becomes. Because of the time span, there are several side stories that help shape the book and give it more depth. Really this book contains so much of what many of us can relate to--college years and finding ourselves, friendships that wax and wane, loved ones diagnosed with sickness, growing up and realizing things aren't how they seem when you are a child. Really, at 291 pages this book could have been much longer! Sometimes it felt like too much was being crammed into too few pages, and I would have liked to have seen some of the side stories develop a little more.

What did you like most about the book? After reading some crazy reads over the past month it was nice to relax over the long weekend with this one. You'll read elsewhere that it isn't action-packed, that a whole lot doesn't really happen in this book. And to be honest that was kind of nice. The book is about relationships--and of course things will happen in relationships and to relationships--but the meat of the story was how Julian and Mia grew both individually and as a couple throughout the novel.

What did you think of the characters? I had a difficult time relating to the characters and I didn't love either of them. I think given a longer novel I could have gotten to know them a little better and really come to appreciate what makes each of them tick. My favorite parts in the novel were when Julian and Mia were reflecting upon some of the things that had happened in their individual pasts (for example, Mia reflects upon a year she spends as a nanny in France). The strength of this novel certainly comes from when Henkin takes a deep look at the characters and really makes them come to life. The dialogue was a little bit "eh" for me--but then again I'm not really much of a dialogue person.

Recommended? All you have to do is click through some of the reviews below to see that people really love this book! And I can absolutely see why. I think I would compare it maybe to an Anne Tyler novel (don't shoot me if I'm wrong since I've only read one) or Anita Shreve's work (several of which I've read). I didn't love the book, but I think a lot of that comes from it being just too darn short!

Cover thoughts: Ha ha! Bathrooms freak me out. I am NOT a germ freak by any stretch of the imagination. But there it is. :) I much much much prefer the cover of the brand new paperback edition that was recently released. What do you think of the cover? Does is scream Wedded Bliss to you? Really it reminds me that I need to clean the bathrooms. Ha!

Visit Joshua Henkin's website HERE. Josh has written a few very interesting essays about book clubs and I think Matrimony would make a great pick for book clubs. The book is accessible and as I mentioned above we can all relate to a piece of the story. Josh has some great discussion questions posted (and you can see the fabulous paperback edition--which I will be giving away with Josh's help in a few weeks).

See what they thought:
Gautami (My Own Little Reading Room)
Bookfool (Bookfoolery and Babble)
Mrs. S (50 Book Challenge)
Heather J. (Age 30 - A Year of Books)
Dewey (Hidden Side of a Leaf)
Bethany (B&b Ex Libris)


Melody said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts, Trish! I'm not sure if I'll get this book soon (budget, budget!) but I'm quite intrigued with the character-driven theme. Have to check out the other reviewers' links! :)

Ramya said...

i keep reading rave reviews for this book.. definitely need to read it sometime soon!:)

Laura said...

You always write such throughtful reviews, and this format seemed to work well with this book! Even though this wasn't your most favorite book, I still am very interested in reading it. I also really enjoy "character-driven" stories!

I also prefer the paperback book cover. Those toothbrushes look like they might actually be touching the bathroom wall, which definitely creeps me out!

Ana S. said...

Ha, I'm glad I'm not the only one who has trouble being succinct :P I'm a fan of character-driven stories too, as well as of stories about relationships. This sounds interesting, it's too bad it wasn't as well-developed as it could have been.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

*Melody - Check back in a few weeks--I'll be giving away a signed copy! I know you mean about the budget--I'm definitely having to cut back also.

*Ramya - Like I mentioned before--giveaway coming soon. :) Ya, it does seem like a lot of people are reading this one recently. I guess maybe because of the paperback being released.

*Laura - Thank you. When I was doing some blog hopping last night I found this format with a few added questions that I wish I had used, but then my review would have been a novel. It doesn't feel like I'm writing that much but when I post it I can't believe how long my reviews can get (which is weird because I am such a skimmer when I read blogs).

*Nymeth - With this one I think that Henkin was trying to accomplish too much within a short book. There were so many story lines that could have been really strong but they just didn't have the time to develop. I'm not a big fan of long books--but I think sometimes they have their merits.

Stephanie said...

I just won a copy of this one!! I'm really looking forward to it. I've only seen positive reviews so far.

Jeane said...

O dear. So many people seem to love this book. Every review I read about it makes it sound better and better. And yet, I can't stand writers like Anita Shreve. She bores me to tears. So if Matrimony is like that (the "eh" conversations come to mind) then I don't think I'll pick it up.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

*Stephanie - I hope you really enjoy it!!

*Jeane - You're inclinations are probably right on this one. Shreve doesn't bore me to tears, but she also doesn't make me think a whole lot. This one was kind of the same--not a ton of depth (to me anyway).

Ramya said...

51 books this year already?? congrats! how many do you plan to read this year?? i am slowly chugging along.. 30 done and i know there are at least 10 more to go.. but that's about it for me!

Darlene said...

I too have seen such good reviews of this one. I love relationship driven stories so I already have this one on my radar. Thanks for another great review Trish.

Darlene said...

I nominated you for an award here:

Bookfool said...

LOL on the bathroom freaking you out. And, you're welcome -- you can steal my stolen format, any time. I think I have, in fact, dropped a couple of questions because I could go on forever. Brevity is most definitely not my strong suit. :)

Debi said...

Another wonderful review, Trish! Though I've read a few reviews of this one, I think I maybe got a better feel for the book from yours. Still, I can't decide if it's a book for me or not. Of course, it's not like I need to worry about that quite yet, as there are a few (or few hundred) books on the TBR piles as it is.

Thoughts of Joy said...

Congratulations on the BBAW nomination!!! Hooray for you!

Literary Feline said...

It did feel a bit refreshing to read something a little more slow paced, I agree. I enjoyed the story quite a bit. As always, great review!

Anonymous said...

I have seen this book everywhere! It certainly is making the rounds among the bloggers.

samantha.1020 said...

I've been hearing good things about this book. I'm adding it to the TBR list. Thanks for the review!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

*Ramya - Thank you! I read 58 last year (as you saw) so I feel pretty good about it. I think I can definitely get 70 but I'd like to shoot for 75. 40 books a year is still really fantastic!!

*Dar - This one has been getting great reviews. I'll be giving away a copy of the book in a few weeks so watch out for it! And thank you. I just got into town so I'll try to make a post about it tomorrow.

*Bookfool - I was on Dewey's blog after I had written this post and saw a couple of questions that were different. This works and basically touches upon everything I would have mentioned anyway.

*Debi - I thought it was a good book but I don't feel gushy like some of the others do. And I know *exactly* what you mean about that TBR pile! If it weren't for challenges I think my older books would continue to sit and probably grow mold.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

*Joy - Congrats to YOU!! :) I was excited to see all of the nominees, but I was really surprised at how many of them I wasn't familiar with.

*Lit Feline - I enjoyed the story as well but some parts felt too rushed--20 years is a lot to cover! Are you back from your trip??

*Natasha - I think partly because the paperback edition was recently released. It's always interesting to me how bloggers are being used for marketing in a way.

*Samantha - Definitely! And I'll be giving away a copy of the book in a few weeks so keep watching for the announcement (maybe the 22nd).

Anna said...

Great review! This book has been on my TBR list for awhile, and I'm more excited about it now that I know it's character-driven. I love books that focus on the characters.

--Diary of an Eccentric

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

*Anna - That seems to be what everyone is pointing out about this book--that it is about the characters. I hope you like it! And as I've mentioned earlier, I'll be doing a drawing for a signed copy of Matrimony in about two weeks!

Lisa said...

I have been saving this review in my reader ever since you posted it so I could steal the format- don't be surprised if I do. I will, of course, credit you and Bookfool.

Also- I saw the Little Women episode of Friends last night!

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

*Lisa - is it weird that whenever I see that episode of Friends I think of you? :) And don't worry about giving me credit for the format...definitely not mine!! I think it originated from Dewey of The Hidden Side of the Leaf, but I'm not positive about that...