Matrimony – Book Review

Matrimony by Joshua Henkin

Paperback release date: Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

“Matrimony” is the story of Julian, then of Julian and Carter, then of Julian and Mia. All three, along with a girl named Pilar are students at Graymont College. Julian is a child of privilege, his father is an investment banker and they live in a huge apartment in New York. He meets Carter in a creative writing class where, despite their differences, they bond over being the only not-terrible writers in the class. It isn’t long before Carter meets a girl named Pilar and Julian meets the girl over whom both he and Carter have been drooling – Mia.  We follow Julian, Carter, Mia, and Pilar though senior year when they remain the only couples still together from freshman year and all the way through their 15 year class reunion.

“Matrimony” was a New York Times Notable book and there’s a reason for that – the writing is good.  The story is primarily character-driven instead of plot-driven and the characters were rich and well written.  That being said, the story did not immediately resonate with me.  Mia and Julian’s senior year they seemed to make lot right decisions for wrong reasons and that bothered me, perhaps because my story was so different.  When I met my husband we knew pretty quickly that we wanted to get married, Mia and Julian seemed to decide to marry on the spur of the moment and because of things totally unrelated to wanting to be together.  For me that colored their early married life in a negative light.  That being said, I LOVED the second half of the book, when both Mia and Julian seemed to figure out who they were and what it was they wanted.

Although I had a couple of issues with the plot, they were my own issues and not flaws of the book; if anything, they showed what strong, realistic characters Henkin wrote that I was able to get so annoyed with them!  I think that a lot of you out there would really love this book, particularly anyone who married their college sweetheart, or anyone who thinks that they married too young but it turned out okay, anyone who wondered what it might have been like to marry your college sweetheart, or anyone who likes a good character-driven novel.

You can buy this book on Amazon in hardback, preorder this book on Amazon in paperback, or check back around this time next week for a chance to win an autographed copy of “Matrimony,” direct from Mr. Henkin himself!

Just to whet your appetite, here’s a picture of the pretty new paperback cover:

10 comments to Matrimony – Book Review

  • I’ve read several great reviews of that one, so I’m adding it to my list.

  • I really related to this story because my husband and I took things pretty slowly and were three years into our relationship before we even began talking about marriage…Julian and Mia’s struggle to figure out what comes next after graduation resonated with me. I wouldn’t say they made their decisions for the wrong reasons–I can easily imagine that I might have pushed up my wedding date if I were in Mia’s position–but the fact that we can have this conversation indicates again (as you said) how well Henkin’s characters are written.

    I hate the new cover, though.

  • I just felt like they got married mainly because that was what they thought was supposed to come next, although I did feel that they loved each other and totally agree with you that with her situation, it definitely made sense to move up marriage plans (I love how we are talking about them as if they are real people – they sure seemed that way in the book!).

    As to the new cover, I don’t hate it, but I definitely prefer the old one. I do think it is a pretty cover, but it doesn’t seem to represent the book as well. The women’s shoes, for instance, look to me like they belong to a little girl.

  • I just thought the original cover was a subtle, simple representation of intimacy and the small details of daily life. The new one’s not awful, and I see how it’s designed for wider appeal (Josh Henkin and I actually had a protracted email discussion about the cover issue), but I think they could have done better.

  • I’m in agreement with you, Rebecca, about the cover. Shoes are everywhere on book covers these days (check out Bloody Hell, It’s a Book Barrage’s current post). The bathroom sink was original and was what attracted me to the book in the first place.

  • Ok, not to deviate from popular opinion but I HATE the colors on the bathroom cover, making the shoes cover a bit warmer and more appealing.

  • You deviant, you!

    I can see what you mean, Amy. If I saw the two covers without knowing anything about the book, I’d be more drawn to the shoe cover. I just don’t think it fits the book as well.

  • […] a couple of weeks ago when I reviewed the New York Times Notable Book, Joshua Henkin’s lovely, character-driven […]

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    […] to win a signed copy of Joshua Henkin’s novel Matrimony. You can read her review of the book here, but the reason I want to read this book is because it kind of sounds a lot like my life, which I […]

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