Summary via Goodreads:
In 1955, Jenny Van Horne was a 21-year-old, naïve Bennington College graduate on her own for the first time in New York City. She meets 46-year-old Clement Greenberg who, she is told, is “the most famous, the most important, art critic in the world!” Knowing nothing about art, she soon finds herself swept into Clem’s world and the heady company of Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, David Smith, Helen Frankenthaler, among others. Seven months later, as a new bride, Jenny and Clem spend the summer in East Hampton near Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, and she feels even more keenly like an interloper in the inner circle of the art scene. A woman disowned by her anti-Semitic family for marrying a Jew, she would develop a deep, loving bond with Clem that would remain strong through years of an open marriage and separate residences.
Jenny embodies the pivotal changes of each passing decade as she searches for worlds of her own. She moves from the tradition of wife and mother to rebellion and experimentation; diving into psychoanalysis; the theater world of OOB and the Actors’ Studio; and succeeding in business. Throughout, A Complicated Marriage is grounded in honesty and the self-deprecating humor, grace, and appealing voice of its author.
I picked this book for review because it reminded me of Patti Smith’s Just Kids. It wasn’t until I started reading it, and realized how strong the resemblance is, that I remembered I didn’t love Just Kids.
Particularly for the first half of the book, the resemblance was strong. There was an odd distance between the narrator and the events she described. There were a lot of mentions of friendships and parties with people I knew nothing about– and I know even less about the art world than the music world. The only familiar name in A Complicated Marriage is that of Jackson Pollock.
While I didn’t dislike the book at first, it also didn’t really click for me, I just didn’t get drawn in. That changed about halfway through– while it took more than a week to get through that first half, I read most of the second half in one day, and didn’t have to struggle to get around to the last piece.
Once the author came into herself, the book became interesting in and of itself. The time she spent in the theater world, the exploration of the complicated aspects of her marriage, the relationships she built at this time, all these mature. I think some of her distance in telling about them may have gone as well, but whatever the reason, I enjoyed it far more at this point.
I came out of the book with a little more understanding of the personal side of the American art world in the second half of the last century, some insight as to how an open marriage could work for some people, and a look at a girl who grew into a very interesting woman.
I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour, and was provided a copy of the book for review. Thank you for this opportunity. You can find out more about Janice Van Horn at her website. For other perspectives on A Complicated Marriage, check out the other stops on the tour:
Tuesday, May 14th: Turn the Page
Wednesday, May 15th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
- Thursday, May 16th: Patricia’s Wisdom
- Monday, May 20th: Dreaming in Books
- Tuesday, May 28th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
- Wednesday, May 29th: A Bookish Way of Life
- Thursday, May 30th: The Book Wheel
- Thursday, June 6th: Reviewing Shelf
- Tuesday, June 11th: The Relentless Reader
- Wednesday, June 12th: Worducopia
- Thursday, June 13th: River City Reading
- Monday, June 17th: Dwell in Possibility
- Wednesday, June 19th: Kelly’s [Former] France Blog
- Wednesday, June 26th: Buried in Print