Cover image for Le mariage
Le mariage
Johnson, Diane, 1934-
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Publication Information:
Prince Frederick, MD : Recorded Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
10 audio discs (12 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
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Compact disc.
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Audiobook on CD


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XX(1105453.7) Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks

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Le Mariage

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

With deft, skewering prose, Johnson (Le Divorce, 1996) once again gives readers a window into the odd goings-on of the expatriate community in Paris. Anne-Sophie, French, is engaged to Tim, a half-American, half-Belgian journalist looking for his big break of a story. There is a Polish film director, Cray, and his American wife, Clara, a murder in the marketplace, stolen manuscripts, false accusations, lost passports, and outrageous tangles of plot linking across continents--all seeming to have the direct effect of complicating conservative Anne-Sophie's attempts to plan a proper wedding. The murder and manuscript link to Oregon, and Clara's aged mother's companion, requiring a trip to America to resolve. Of course because of the legal complications stemming from the false accusations, Clara cannot accompany them. Does the wedding come off? Does Clara go to jail? Whatever happens, Johnson is slyly accurate in her ability to zero in on the defining quirks of the various cultures. This wickedly amusing amalgam of plot and character will keep the reader engrossed and entertained throughout. --Danise Hoover

Publisher's Weekly Review

Even more knowing and perceptive than Le Divorce, Johnson's second novel about American expatriates in France is another wickedly clever comedy of manners. Her amused irony infuses this story of two romantic relationships. Good-natured Tim Nolinger, an easygoing journalist of mixed American and Belgian ancestry, is engaged to adorable Anne-Sophie d'Arget, who runs a boutique selling equestrian memorabilia in the Paris flea market. When Tim pursues a story about a stolen medieval manuscript called the Driad Apocalypse, their lives intersect with those of a former American film star, Clara Holly, and her husband, famous and reclusive director Serge Cray, who live in a chƒteau in the suburbs of Paris. Peripheral characters include Anne-Sophie's mother, a cynical Parisienne novelist whose romance novels contain platitudinous advice about love that her daughter takes seriously; various members of the American community in Paris; the villagers of Etang-la-reine, who resent the rich property owners from the States and whose anger about the loss of their hunting rights triggers a plot against the Crays; two visitors from Clara's hometown in Oregon, and the members of a millennium cult there, who are pivotal in the drama of the purloined papers. What will be even more satisfying to Johnson's fans is the appearance of a character from Le Divorce, the dashing Antoine de Persand. In six degrees of separation, everybody is connected, yet the coincidences are artfully managed. Johnson's crisp manipulation of the engagingly convoluted plot is rooted in her central theme of French misconceptions about Americans, and vice versa. As exemplified by Holly and Cray, even those who share the same culture habitually fail to estimate the other accurately. Johnson's barbs are sophisticated and sharp, her amused irony is easily maintained, and her finesse at narrative is as fine tuned as her cultural sensitivity and her instincts about human behavior. As the novel ends, it is not surprising that le mariage of Anne-Sophie and Tim seems doomed by misunderstandings, but an adulterous liaison between two other characters conveys the mesmerizing passion of true love. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Reversing the usual order of things, Johnson follows up her acclaimed Le Divorce with Le Mariage. An American journalist engaged to a Frenchwoman tracks the story of a stolen work of art now said to belong to a reclusive French film director whose beauteous American wife is accused of desecrating a national monument. Mon Dieu! (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One Clara It was widely agreed among the other Americans in Paris that Clara Holly had the ideal life here, and people also agreed that if her good fortune had distanced her slightly from the normal lot of Americans, even from human beings generally, it hadn't made a monster of her as often seems to happen to women in her category--beautiful, rich, well married, far from her Oregon beginnings. Sometimes women in this category, married to Europeans, are seen to acquire unplaceable mid-Atlantic accents and a certain amnesia about being American except for eight weeks spent on Martha's Vineyard every summer.     "And sometimes fortunate people can come to feel that they have earned their good fortune," remarked the princess Sternholz, née Dorothy Minor from Cincinnati, of Clara, though she liked her.     Clara Holly remembered her roots, yet would rather not, and almost never went back to the U.S. When in Paris she belonged very much to the American world that exists like a specialized form in a complex ecosystem, dependent on its hosts but apart from them, extending mossily from the Marais to Neuilly, the stodgy suburb to the northwest, and into the delightful countryside between Saint-Cloud and Versailles--so Marie Antoinette in its pretension to wildness, nature, and simplicity.     Clara and her husband Serge Cray, the renowned if now somewhat reclusive director, live out there, near the village of Etangla-Reine, in a château of exceptional beauty that had once briefly belonged to Madame du Barry. This was a decrepit structure that had somehow escaped the notice of the ministry of such things, fallen into further decay, briefly become a bed-and-breakfast, and been bought by a newly rich Russian who sold its boiseries and cheminées --its panelling and fireplaces. After Serge Cray bought it, he directed the refurbishment, using studio carpenters and props from his costume film Queen Caroline , and Clara had thrown herself into restoring the gardens, going into Paris only a couple of times a week to shop or see an art show or go to a party.     Clara was always planning to go back to Oregon--her widowed mother lived in Lake Oswego, to whom she spoke almost daily--but somehow she didn't go more than every year or two. This was partly because of Cray, who could not go to America because of some income tax matter, a running battle with the IRS that did not quite warrant extradition.     Cray had some view that she would be held hostage. The idea of her going always threw him into one of his fits of gloom. He was Polish to his boots, though after the age of twelve he had been raised in Chicago. It wasn't so much her absence he would mind--they got lost in their rooms and corridors and saw little of each other--it was that America could attach a piece of his property: Clara.     Whether it could or couldn't, Clara respected his fears. They tallied with her own, which over the years had grown exaggerated from reading American newspaper accounts of violence, handguns, road accidents, and crime.     Now thirty-two, Clara had been married for a dozen years, but hadn't acted since that first film, when she met Serge, and when she gained a little bit of cult fame for a daring dance scene. In truth, her dancing had not been as memorable as her nubile beauty, just out of her teens, black curls and a voluptuousness that was close to plumpness. She became thinner with marriage and motherhood. Lars, their eleven-year-old son, was at school in England, to Clara's distress and over her objections, it being Cray's view that English education was superior to French for a boy with Lars's handicap. Mrs. Holly, Lure's ailing grandmother, agreed it was a shame to send a child so young off without his mother, and in her opinion Clara wasn't happy; but the husband was overbearing, as these film people are. Mrs. Holly would say all this to her caregiver Cristal. "There's nine hours' time difference between here and France," Mrs. Holly would always add, it being so odd to think of Clara all the way on the other side of the world where it was dark when the sun shone in Oregon.     Clara was controversial in the American community. The natural suspicion people are apt to feel of above-average beauty was allayed by her apparent modesty and intelligence. A certain loftiness was attributed to shyness, so that people could almost forget about how she looked. Some felt sorry for her because of Lars, deaf from birth, and of how she must miss him, while others remarked that into each life some rain must fall. Yet there was also the fact, undeniable, that the possessors of good fortune tend to take it for granted and then to expect it, and Clara was no exception. In her own view, she may have felt she had mysteriously earned her looks, wealth, and good fortune by the conscious exercise of virtue. Chapter Two Tim The night the American journalist Thomas Ackroyd Nolinger met the former actress Clara Holly in Paris--without, he says, special presentiment at the time--he had by coincidence been talking about Serge Cray that very morning in Amsterdam in connection with an interesting crime. Nolinger, European stringer for the American conservative newsmagazine Reliance (and also, using his initials TAN, for the liberal monthly Concern ; he was more or less untroubled by the ideological contradiction), contributor to the English literary magazine The Weekly , occasional reviewer for the TLS , film buff, restaurant critic, and would-be novelist, had been sitting in the Café Prolle in Amsterdam reading through the pile of stuff his helpful magistrate friend Cees had brought him, and noticed something that touched on Clara, or actually her husband, little suspecting he'd be meeting her later the same day.     The crime that interested Nolinger was the theft of a valuable medieval manuscript from the Morgan Library in New York. Though far away, it connected surprisingly to his own life when he read, in the list Cees gave him of prominent collectors of incunabula and illustrated manuscripts, not only the well-known name of Serge Cray, the reclusive director, but the names of a couple of people he had actually met in Frankfurt. These were people the criminals might be expected to try to sell their stolen loot to.     The list of manuscript collectors had been compiled by Interpol, with the cooperation of the International Booksellers Association, from auction catalogues and records of private sales. None of the people on the list had ever been associated with stolen material, Cees explained, and they were not suspected in the recent theft, but all would be contacted by Interpol and made aware of the disappearance of the Driad Apocalypse should it be offered for sale to any of them. "The Americans have some reason to think the manuscript will be sold in Europe," said Cees. "That's why the list concentrates on European collectors."     Tim went to Amsterdam from time to time to be filled in like this, smoke some grass, have a few beers with Cees, and gather such information as was floating around formally or informally about Belgian sex rings, Luxembourgian assassination plots, hardening Swiss drug enforcement policies, art thefts, terrorist smuggling attempts. Tim had nothing special to do with any of this--he was not a crime reporter and didn't plan an exposé--but he still made the train journey from Paris every few months to hear Cees's stories. One of these days he would do something with them for Reliance , if he could find an American angle. Reliance always liked hearing how much more corrupt and criminal Europe was than America, though they didn't like hearing how much better the trains were. Reliance regarded trains as crypto-communist, requiring as they did state subsidies.     Regarding crime in general, theories floated vaguely in Tim's mind, solid enough to make a little essay: criminal conspiracy as a way of imposing order on the random materials of the chaotic world. Crime required focus, as did perversion; in that sense both represented Order. The psychological soulagements of crime--what was the English word for soulagement ? He often lost words, which hurtled unrecoverably into some slot between his English and his French, a great disadvantage for someone who made his living writing.     Tim was half American, half Belgian on his mother's side and was called Tim instead of Tom by everyone but his mother. He had kept the pale tow-colored hair of childhood, and was one of those large pink-cheeked rugby-player types, unsuited by his European education for fitting into either culture, and more good-natured than his size would suggest. He was a journalist ostensibly, a wanderer, a dreamer perhaps. And perhaps slightly older than he appeared, which raised the possibility of a lost half-decade somewhere behind him.     Tim had known Cees a long time. They had met at prep school in Switzerland, Cees then a skinny curly-headed cynic, now something of a law-and-order zealot, and much fatter. From what anyone knew, Tim's father had been an American representative of a hotel and car-rental chain, stationed in Europe. The family moved a lot, from London to Istanbul, so Tim mostly attended Swiss boarding schools. His American aunts had referred to this as being "sent away" but he himself had seen it as adventure. His Belgian mother looked on the separations from her son as normal though painful, a form of sacrifice exacted from herself, sacrifice being the nature of life. Tim always spoke with great affection of his mother, inadvertently giving the impression she was dead, though she lived in Michigan.     Always looking for stories, his only means of supporting the rather mondaine Paris life he led, Tim resolved to figure out a way of getting an interview with Serge Cray about his collection of ancient manuscripts and incunabula--an approach to Cray he had never seen tried. People were mostly interested in his films, or at the outside his personality, and not especially in his old books. Collecting as a logical extension of the role of auteur ? Filmmaking as a form of collecting, in the sense that it was an accretion of images and ideas? Tim got out his notebook and wrote these notions down, since he suspected they were too flimsy to stick in his mind, like many of his ideas.     A young man given to irony and no illusions, in one sense he was a generic young man, for there are always dozens of Americans like him in Paris, clinging to the rather precarious livelihoods they have managed to score, for the pleasure of being there or because they have burnt their bridges and have no idea how to go back home now that they have let the moment go by for getting their MBAs or internships at their hometown radio stations or newspapers or lesser Condé Nast publications. But there was something extra about Tim Nolinger, something more than just the patina of a Swiss boarding school.     "The FBI is coming here," Cees said. "That is a little bit rare. It is hard to see why it is of concern to them--a stolen manuscript from a private American library. Not a federal thing. They usually hand art theft on to the art people at Interpol."     "It might be a federal crime. American laws are complicated--state lines, jurisdictions. I went to an American law school for a year," Tim said. "No Japanese or Arabs on this list of collectors, I notice."     "I often forget you're an American," Cees said.     "Only half. But which half, I am asked, head or heart? Top or bottom?" Tim laughed, and took his leave. It was a question he didn't himself know the answer to, he'd been in Europe so long.     Having promised his French fiancée to turn up at a soiree in Paris, he had booked a plane at sixteen o'clock from Schiphol, which would get him back to France just in time to languish in the traffic at the nightmare rush hour.     Idea for a piece: the terrible traffic in Paris? It was a wonder more people weren't killed. Deploring French traffic was not just rhetorical; their most important people were run over in traffic--Roland Barthes, and the head of Cartier, who stepped out of his shop on the Place Vendôme. Death in traffic a tradition going back at least as far as the husband of Madame Curie, mown down by a horsecab, his mind on his wife's infidelity. Copyright © 2000 Diane Johnson. All rights reserved.