Private Life by Jane Smiley is a stunning novel which traverses the intimate landscape of one woman’s life from the 1880s to World War Two.
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Margaret Mayfield is nearly an old maid at twenty-seven when she marries Captain Andrew Jackson Jefferson Early. He’s the most famous man their Missouri town has ever produced: a naval officer and an astronomer-a genius who, according to the local paper, has changed the universe. Margaret’s mother calls the match “a piece of luck.”
Yet Andrew confounds Margaret’s expectations from the moment their train leaves for his naval base in San Francisco, and soon she realizes that his devotion to science leaves little room for anything, or anyone, else. She stands by him through tragedies both personal and those they share with the nation. But as World War II approaches, Andrew’s obsessions take a darker turn, forcing Margaret to reconsider the life she’d so carefully constructed.
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