Memories of a Marriage, by Louis Begley

When I started this novel, I assumed that the marriage being remembered was the narrator’s long and happy union to his Parisian wife - the now deceased Bella, whom he had first encountered at a party when he was a young man (“My thoughts and gaze were fixed on Bella; it was a coup de foudre: lightning had stuck, I had fallen in love”). But soon the story turns and concentrates on the marriage of Lucy de Bourgh, trust fund party girl and daughter of one of Rhode Island’s first families, and her brilliant but socially-beneath-her husband, Thomas Snow.

Thomas was killed in a freak accident years earlier, and also years after he and Lucy got divorced. Time, however, has not softened Lucy’s opinion of the man she calls “that monster.” But was it Thomas or Lucy herself who was the demon in the marriage? Thomas remarried and had a happy relationship the second time around, and the child he had with Lucy -Jamie, who Lucy calls “a loser” - is closer to his step-mother than to his own mother.

Perhaps because he has too much time on his hands, maybe because he is vaguely interested in a romantic relationship with Lucy, or it could be just because he can’t reconcile why the Lucy/Thomas union turned so sour, the narrator becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to the marriage of two friends he had so very long ago. Whatever the reason, the reader benefits; learning more about Lucy often makes one sit up straight and raise an eyebrow.

"I’m still quite rich,” she says. “Richer than you think. And I’m not really a bitch. I’ve told you so much about myself that you must think I am, but that’s not the truth. I’m in good shape now—in my head and in the rest of the body. I could give you a nice life—sex included," she added. Our narrator takes note.

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