This week Fiona from Brompton Library is reviewing An American Marriage by Tayari Jones which won the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019. The novel is set in modern day Atlanta and tells the story of Celestial and Roy, a young and successful married couple whose lives are turned upside down when Roy is wrongly accused of rape. Over to Fiona…
The novel is both about relationships and how people’s differences and similarities are what both attract them and push them away from each other. All the of the main characters are rounded and complex, my sympathies were pulled in many directions. It shows the complexities of love and loyalty as Celeste waits for Roy, but while she is waiting and his life has been arrested, her life carries on almost against her will, and she finds herself getting closer to Andre, her childhood friend, with whom she has a completely different type of relationship. Is one relationship better or worse than another? It seems there are always positives and negatives.
At the same time, this is also a modern retelling of James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk”. This time, the characters are more integrated into middle class society, they are financially successful and stable. Even with this success, this young black couple are faced with the same racism. I liked the way the novel explores racial stereotypes, both confirming them and dispeling them; how society’s treatment of a person can shape them positively and negatively; and I think it also raises important questions about whether or not we can move beyond the wrongs of the past into a different future. It is an incredibly moving and powerful novel – a very compelling read.
Fiona, Brompton Library