Feature

Julia Glass

Julia Glass is the author of Three Junes, which won the 2002 National Book Award for Fiction. Currently she’s at work on a novel about marriage and happiness, and here chooses her favorite works of fiction portraying the agony and ecstasy of married life.

Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (Penguin, $10). This is the most exquisitely written, structurally ambitious book I’ve ever read. Gwendolen Harleth—a shrewd, self-possessed woman (and my all-time favorite heroine)—enters a mutually opportunistic marriage, unable to imagine how dark is the path it will lead her down or how badly her heart will be broken.

The Half-life of Happiness by John Casey (Knopf, $14). A rich, magnanimous layer cake of a novel in which the breakup of a longtime, seemingly solid marriage is set against the backdrop of a political campaign (as if to say, “And you thought true love the trickiest of human aspirations?”).

Sandcastle by Iris Murdoch (Penguin, $15). This is the most moving novel I have ever read about an affair: what it means to risk everything, including your conscience, for the sake of passion—and, on the other side, for the sake of holding together your family, however imperfect.

The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter (Knopf, $13). I’ve read few books more aptly titled than this one. Baxter’s astute but quirky eye is like a prism, parsing romantic love—committed, erotic, long-suffering, one-sided, catastrophic, youthful—into almost all its possible hues.

Mystery Ride by Robert Boswell (out of print). This is a very American novel about love, marriage, divorce, and raising kids (one of them a hilariously wicked teenage girl). Boswell doesn’t just tell a good, suspenseful story, but composes a portrait of family life in a world where sensible choices often leave us with enduring regret.

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