BOOK REVIEW: TAYARI JONES – AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE

It’s a very exciting book review on my blog today as it’s the winner of the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019! It’s An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.

I’ve read this last month but didn’t want to upload my review until after the winner was announced and it’s this book that won! This is the first year that I got properly invested in this prize. That’s partly down to me having this blog and more involved in the book world than previously and it’s also that I wanted to get more involved and invested in book prizes too and I was really looking forward to the Women’s Prize this year. I tried to read the entire long-list but I was in the middle of doing essays for university and also there were books that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy so I read the ones that interested me or I knew I would like. In terms of the shortlist, I read all but Circe and The Silence of the Girls. I’m just not a fan of mythology and heard mixed reviews for The Silence of the Girls. 

But when it came to thinking of the winner, I thought An American Marriage had a good chance. It’s loved by everyone all over the world, including Obama and Oprah, a New York Times bestseller and so much more. Everyone has fallen in love with these characters and the story is important and visceral for these times. I was so pleased it won, I really enjoyed reading it and felt quite bereft after finishing it. So, what’s it about? Here’s the blurb:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of the American Dream. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. Until one day they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit.

Devastated and unmoored, Celestial finds herself struggling to hold on to the love that has been her centre, taking comfort in Andre, their closest friend. When Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, he returns home ready to resume their life together.

A masterpiece of storytelling, An American Marriage offers a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three unforgettable characters who are at once bound together and separated by forces beyond their control.

I love this blurb as it really draws you into the story and the characters. I really enjoyed this book and I was engrossed from the very first page. Tayari Jones is wonderful writer. It is emotional, lyrical, dream-like but haunting too. She really gets under the skin of these characters but also the relationship that is at the centre of the novel. The pacing is also brilliant throughout and I think she doesn’t miss a beat. Nothing is wasted and every word, paragraph, chapter count and that shows throughout the course of the novel. The novel is split from different perspectives: Roy, Celestial and Andre. There’s also a huge chunk of the novel where Roy and Celestial write letters to each other when Roy is in prison and I love the use of letters in books. It gives a new perspective and a different layer to the novel and also the relationship between these two characters.

There are a lot of themes and ideas explored in this novel. From: injustice and justice, race, identity, marriage, relationships, societal expectations, the legal system, the American Dream, motherhood and fatherhood, love and loss, and so much more. Tayari Jones is a wonderful writer because she takes these themes and ideas and executes them perfectly. The themes of race and the legal system were incredibly written and I also loved the theme of social class and how that’s explored in the novel from both Roy and Celestial. Tayari Jones takes these themes and she makes them human, it’s nothing over-the-top plots with twists and turns but it’s about people, people right at the centre.

I think my favourite character is Celestial. I loved reading from her perspective the most and for me, she was the most rounded character and I loved reading her letters to Roy as I loved the way Tayari Jones wrote those letters and the language that she uses, too. As I’ve mentioned, the novel is told in three perspectives: Roy and Celestial but also Andre. At first, I was a bit like: ‘Where the hell did he spring from?!’ and that it wasn’t needed but I get why his perspective is in there – to give us all sides of this story but his perspective didn’t add that much for me and I would have liked to see more from Celestial and Roy, Celestial especially as I felt that there could have been more from her.

This is a novel that captured my heart and so many others. I think Tayari Jones is a masterful writer – the way she creates characters and captures little moments of people and relationships is brilliant. I loved the dynamics of family and the different types of family, too. As I’ve said, there is no big over-the-top plot devices or twists and turns, it’s about people, a relationship, right at the centre, with big important themes at play. That’s what I got from this year’s Women’s Prize – that it’s not about the big ideas and the big twists and turns, it’s about giving people a voice, a community a voice – the authors and also the characters in their novels. I loved this year’s Women’s Prize and I can’t wait to be invested all again next year. I’m so pleased with An American Marriage winning the prize and I’m so happy that this will be in the hands of new readers reading this story for the first time as it really is a special book and Tayari Jones is a genius and I can’t wait for the next book.

Have you read An American Marriage yet? What did you think? Are you pleased it won? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you,

Corey.

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