But the fact that This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage is a collection of essays seems to have slowed me down, as well. As much as I enjoyed each essay, it just felt right to stop reading after each one for a short time to allow myself to digest it before changing directions with the next essay. It’s not the same experience as getting sucked into a novel and reading for hours on end.
I’ve been a fan of Ann Patchett’s books for quite some time. I haven’t read her earliest novels yet, but I fell hard for Bel Canto, and then her memoir of her friendship with Lucy Grealy, Truth & Beauty. It’s simply a beautiful book. Since then I’ve also read Run and her latest novel, Commonwealth.
Reading her essays was an interesting experience because of the range of subjects she includes. There is a convocation speech at Clemson, after her memoir was selected as a school-wide read for incoming freshmen and a religious zealot crusaded against her book (and her life). There are essays about her dog. There are essays about her two marriages. And then the essay I liked the most, about life as a novelist, was “The Getaway Car.” I believe I’ve read it before as a stand-alone ebook, but now that I’m trying to plan out a novel of my own, the essay seemed so much more relevant to me.
Without ever seeming pretentious or seeming to try too hard, Patchett’s prose in her fiction and essays alike is always clean, vibrant, and accessible. She’s simply a joy to read as a stylist. I need to pick up her other novels soon. I have no doubt I’ll find them enjoyable, too.