Anne Tyler is a great writer and in a great rut. Though her considerable British following will pounce on The Amateur Marriage, only the hard core of fans, for whom she can do no wrong, will be satisfied. By the standards of her best work, the new novel is perfunctory. Her patient mining of generic lives for sharp individual truths seems a worked-out vein this time around. By a failure of the literary transubstantiation normally so reliable a mechanism in this writer's work, the characters remain ordinary, if not positively tiresome. Tyler's home territory, from which she rarely strays, is Baltimore, famously a city of distinct ethnic neighbourhoods.
It's not only the marriage that disintegrates
The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
Because Tyler writes with scrupulous accuracy about muddled, unglamorous suburbanites, it is easy to underestimate her as a sort of Pyrex realist. Yes, Tyler intuitively understands the middle class's Norman Rockwell ideal, but she doesn't share it; rather, she has a masterful ability to make it bleed. Her latest novel delineates, in careful strokes, the year marriage of Michael Anton and Pauline Barclay, and its dissolution. In December in St. Cassians, a mainly Eastern European conclave in Baltimore, year-old Michael meets Pauline and is immediately smitten. They marry after Michael is discharged from the army, but their temperaments don't mix.
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The plot concerns the marriage of Michael Anton and Pauline Barclay, who meet when he tends to her bloodied brow in his family's grocery store, located in a primarily Eastern European enclave in Baltimore , in December They marry after Michael is discharged from the Army with a permanent injury caused by a deliberate shot from someone he assaulted. Michael and Pauline settle in a small apartment above the store, but their widely different temperaments and expectations quickly create dissension in the relationship. He is repressed, controlling, and quiet; she is loud, emotional, and romantic. At Pauline's insistence, they move to the suburbs, where they raise three children: Lindy, George and Karen.