In “Memories of a marriage” by Louis Begley, a writer – named Philip – in his seventies reconnects with an old friend – named Lucy – whom he met right out of college and hasn’t seen for 40 years. Both main characters are from the East Coast privileged class: their capital acquired by their forefathers from one crime (slave-trade) or another. As parvenus their kind spend their life in luxury in places to be in Europe and at the East Coast.
Lucy once a beautiful woman with the world at her feet, has become a bitter divorce who fully puts the blame on her former husband Thomas. She has married Thomas – the son of a garage owner – after she has lost the opportunity for a good marriage with candidates from her own class after a few too many overtly sexual relations with Philip and many of his peers. Thomas became a very successful and well to do banker in Wall street, but he could never meet the parvenu’s class culture in the opinion of Lucy (never wear black shoes before the evening).
Philip is now a widower – having lost his beloved wife to cancer – and one day he runs into Lucy who is now divorced from Thomas who had died several years before. Lucy starts telling her side of what had happened in her marriage: all very negative toward Thomas. Unable to believe Lucy’s side, that is besides his own memory and admiration of Thomas and Lucy, Philip begins an investigation as preparation for a novel by asking questions to Lucy – who gives intimate details of her marriage to Thomas – and by questioning others who have known Thomas and Lucy as a couple.
Very well written although a small part in the middle – used to speed up the storyline – is slightly out of tone. In case this small part would be fully elaborated in the same style and the plotting slightly improved, this book might deserve five stars.