Saturday, January 28, 2012

Le Mariage by Diane Johnson

An American groom and Parisian bride encounter distractions on the way to the altar

It was relaxing to return to the hands of a master – the telling of a story, the juggling of many characters who are the cogs of a farcically complex plot, the painting of a moral picture. It’s all very skillfully done. I love Diane Johnson's sentences. The best have an elegantly flowing preface ending with a common or almost vulgar thump. For example, “Tim always spoke with great affection of his mother, inadvertently giving the impression she was dead, though she lived in Michigan.”

The story begins by introducing the three main characters - Clara Holly, the beautiful young retired actress, Tim Nolinger, the classic somewhat dopey good American, and Anne-Sophie, the cute whimsical Parisian who owns an antique stall specializing in equestrian themes. The three of them undergo many comic misunderstandings, Franco-American and otherwise, on the way to Tim and Anne-Sophie’s wedding. There’s a murder, a forgery, a doomed love affair, American wackos, obscene French novelists, paranoid Polish movie directors, limping girls and growling attack dogs. However, eventually I thought there may have been one too many things going on. Sometimes the brass machinery of the plot was visible clicking away beneath the too thin skin.

I’m not sure if you need all the Oregonians (however humorous those hicks may have been) as well as the hasty trip to Oregon three days before the wedding. I was never quite sure what was going on with the Oregon cultists. Were they supposed to be like the Branch Davidians?

Diane Johnson writes comedy though with a ribbon of tragedy. I felt this time the tragedy never cut to the bone the way it usually does. The story felt a little frenetic.

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