The Amateur Marriage follows two people with very different personalities who are flung together in wartime and decide to make a marriage of it.
Pauline is an energetic, attractive, talkative young woman, who likes to enjoy herself. Michael is quiet and reserved and likes to stay home.
Michael rather impetuously proposes to Pauline, remembering how she looked, how she ran toward him to say goodby when he was leaving for the war, her red coat flying behind her. At various times in his later life he remembers that moment and reaffirms his love for her.
The marriage has a rocky beginning. Pauline is expected to move into a tiny apartment above Michael's mother's store, and to live with Michael's mother. She manages to adjust to it but has her eye on a more suburban type life, which she ultimately obtains.
The two don't understand each other and it appears that neither knows quite what to do about it. The rocky beginning extends into the middle and further out into Pauline and Michael's time as grandparents. Through all these years the two struggle against each other's different ways of seeing the world but they never seem to make a real effort to bridge the gap. The marriage never gets past amateur status.
I felt that the descriptions of Pauline in particular are almost mocking, almost parody. Little episodes from their lives as it spans decades are drawn lightly and similarly with almost a smirk, mocking the age and the sensibilities of the time, and the nature of this woman. She isn't particularly likeable.
Michael is drawn with a little more affection, yet his stiffness is always apparent and often irritating. I found myself drawn more, at times, to the children.
Tyler seems to like looking back at the fifties and sixties in particular, and she has an ear for how it sounded, how people talked and thought then. Even though I felt the sets were accurate, I would have preferred more inside work, more of Pauline and Michael inside than out. It may be, of course, that the superficial way she does invade their consciousness does mimic how many in this generation did feel and think.
In general, I like Anne Tyler's work but feel that it touches me lightly rather than deeply. It makes me think a little but does not linger.