I’ve finished Jane Smiley’s new novel, Private Life. I would like to tell you that I loved it, but I can’t. I remember reading, and loving, A Thousand Acres. You could understand why it had won a Pulitzer. This book, (like the little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead) when it was good, it was very, very good. And when it was bad, it was horrid.
I absolutely loved the large part of the book that takes place in Missouri. It is always fun to read about places that are familiar, right down to street names and neighborhoods here in St. Louis. It was a great portrait of Missouri from after the Civil War until the turn of the century. And a wonderful description of what life was like for a young woman at that time in history.
Then our young woman moves to California with her eccentric husband and the novel just goes nowhere. Forty years of her life are lived there and it just seems that we learn nothing about the main character (or any character for that matter) and, even more frustratingly, she learns nothing about herself.
I can let one of the characters sum up my feelings about this book-“But it goes on so long you can’t stand it anymore. At a vaudeville show, at least if you didn’t like the act, you knew it would soon give way to another.”
I’m ready for the next act-Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.