Sunday, August 23, 2015

Prosperous Friends by Christine Schutt

The breakup of a young marriage

Ned and Isabel have recently graduated from MFA programs and are intent upon beginning their writing career. Ned is further along than Isabel, being more diligent. Sensitive Isabel just seems like she can’t get comfortable. Ned is also intent upon bringing Isabel to orgasm, but she seems uninterested in going there (although she does indulge in the occasional extramarital dalliance). This story unfolds over two years, in London, New York and Maine.  In Maine, Isabel is invited to be a model for noted painter Clive Harris. The two of them are also engaging in a little affair (characteristically she is unperturbed that Clive has no interest bringing her to orgasm). Clive, along with his easygoing wife Dinah, offers his guest house for the young couple to live. It’s in Maine that Isabel and Ned decide to part.

The strength of this was not the plot, but the exquisitely beautiful writing.  The beautiful writing doesn’t, as you might suppose, support description, but rather character development. Some of the paragraphs are amazing little micro stories/character studies. Also the dialogue is wonderful. Indirect and funny. The dialogue, as well, builds character. The stakes of the novel, obviously, are low. I cared about the two main characters, but let’s face it; every single person in this book was rich, with no real problems. Unless you consider not having a super strong work ethic or being uninterested in have your husband give you an orgasm counts as a real problem. At times I returned to reread certain paragraphs, they were so lovely and insightful. But in the back of my mind a voice was muttering about the coming revolution.

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