Whence happy marriages?

1920s wedding

I set my book group a challenge recently, and we didn’t do very well. Could we think of novels about happy marriages?

The criteria were simple. The married couple has to be a central point of the novel, not just on the peripheries. They have to get married before the novel starts (or, at a push, in the first chapter). They have to be married after the novel ends – no deaths. Happy marriages, if you please, not just not-unhappy ones.

It’s harder than you think…

I can only really think of Greenery Street by Denis Mackail.

Over to you!

35 thoughts on “Whence happy marriages?

  • July 14, 2017 at 11:22 am
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    The darling buds of May

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  • July 14, 2017 at 11:23 am
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    FOUR GARDENS–MARGERY SHARP has Caroline and Henry–long and happy marriage.
    HOSTAGES TO FORTUNE-ELIZABETH CAMBRIDGE
    RICHMAL CROMPTON–THERE ARE 4 SEASONS

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  • July 14, 2017 at 11:44 am
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    A realistic portrait of a marriage with ups and downs is Helen Ashton’s “MACKEREL SKY” 1931.
    Ought to be reprinted by Persephone.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 11:46 am
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    Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 11:48 am
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    What about Virginia Woolf’s The Lighthouse ? A complex portrait of a marriage, but a happy one. Or Mrs Dalloway?

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  • July 14, 2017 at 12:13 pm
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    HAPPY MARRIAGE?! BY MAKI ENJOJI – this came up on a quick search… but you are right, it is quite a challenge. Perhaps pain and anguish are easier to write about?

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  • July 14, 2017 at 12:18 pm
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    Are we discounting detective novels where the happy marriage is central to the plot? I suspect we are, but if not, I’d throw in Busman’s Holiday (Sayers), N or M? (Christie) and Last Ditch (Marsh), at least.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 1:05 pm
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    Simon, Would you consider Edith Ottley’s endlessly patient forbearance of her dear Bruce happy? They seem somehow always to patch things up, and get geyond his limitations! Just an idea.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 2:19 pm
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    Eowyn Ivy’s “To The Bright Edge of the World” is probably a stretch, as the central couple is geographically separated for most of the novel. But they are very much in love with one another, despite the trials they endure.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 3:07 pm
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    Blue Castle by LM Montgomery; many Angela Thirkell books have happy couples (most are, in fact, since it is a totally alternate universe of happy upper crust)…

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    • July 15, 2017 at 2:01 am
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      No wonder that I love Angela Thirkell, an alternate universe is just what I need frequently.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 4:07 pm
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    The one that immediately sprang to mind was The Darling Buds of May which has already been suggested. I can’t think of any others.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 4:16 pm
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    The Fortnight In September? Whilst it’s about the whole family, the depiction of the relationship between husband and wife in particular is lovely.

    Also, for all the characters’ foibles, the marriage in The Diary of a Nobody is very happy and successful.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 4:26 pm
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    I was going to say Thirkell’s “Barsetshire” series but some has mentioned it. D.E. Stevenson’s “Miss Buncle” series.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 5:12 pm
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    Heartily agree with Lindsey about the surplus of happy couples in Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire but I’m having trouble pinpointing novels where the couple would be a central point. Maybe Cheerfulness Breaks In? There are lots of happy and well-established couples in that one (the Birketts, the Bissells, and, though unmarried, Miss Hampton and Miss Bent).

    I’d also suggest Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery, a childhood favourite; any of the Mrs. Tim books by D.E. Stevenson (even when Tim is absent their marriage is remarkably strong); and, a blatant cheat, Dear Octopus by Dodie Smith. It’s a play rather than a novel but, as you know, Charles and Dora are the perfect couple.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 7:42 pm
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    My first thought was also H E Bates and Darling Buds of May. And long time since I read any Maigret but wasn’t he happily married?

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  • July 14, 2017 at 10:07 pm
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    Everything I was thinking of has been suggested – particularly Hostages to Fortune – lovely book.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 10:44 pm
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    Anne’s House of Dreams in the Anne of Green Gables series? Although arguably the marriage is not incredibly central even though the whole book is about a first year of marriage.

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  • July 14, 2017 at 10:59 pm
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    What about Bewildering Cares by Winifred Peck? Although it’s only a week out of their lives the couple in it seem very well-suited and content.

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  • July 15, 2017 at 1:41 am
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    Happy All the Time by Laurie Colwin (two couples, both of whom are still happily married at the end).

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  • July 15, 2017 at 3:32 am
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    I think it might be hard to think of novels like this because even good marriages, even excellent marriages, normally involve quite a bit of unhappiness. A few memoirs of happy marriages do come to mind. The only one I remember reading to cover to cover is Madeleine L’ Engle’s Two Part Invention. “Our marriage was full of joyful things, terrible things, but ours.” It was a happy marriage — with terrible things in it.

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  • July 15, 2017 at 8:41 am
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    Really breaking a trend, the early Peter Diamond books by Peter Lovesey. A detective with a happy marriage, no less!

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  • July 15, 2017 at 6:34 pm
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    This isn’t exactly literature, but Caroline Graham purposefully made Dectective Inspector Barnaby have a happy marriage. And I think we infer that Marmee and Mr. March in Little Women are happily married, as well as Jo and her professor in the later books.

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  • July 15, 2017 at 6:38 pm
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    I twisted around in my chair to inspect my bookshelves — this IS a hard challenge! I thought I’d be able to think of at least one or two, but I have nothing!

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  • July 15, 2017 at 10:06 pm
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    The only one that comes to mind is Little Man, What Now? by Hans Fallada, which I read a few years ago and enjoyed. The married couple in the book face a lot of challenges living in 1930s Germany, but their love for each other is never in doubt – I even remember commenting in my review on how nice it was to have found a book about a happy marriage!

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  • July 16, 2017 at 11:52 am
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    Another RC Sherriff, Greengates, a Persephone. It’s lovely, lovely!

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  • July 17, 2017 at 9:09 am
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    All the ones I was going to suggest have been suggested! Are the marriages in Elizabeth and her German Garden and the Provincial Lady really happy even with the little moans the authors indulge in?

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  • July 17, 2017 at 8:24 pm
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    Somebody mentioned D.E. Stevenson’s books, but what about the Mrs. Tim books?

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  • July 18, 2017 at 4:00 am
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    I can’t believe The Thin Man hasn’t been mentioned yet! George and Olivia from Mr. Pim Passes By are also a very loving couple, despite their differences.

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  • July 19, 2017 at 2:06 am
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    May not be the type of novels you have in mind/might be a stretch but:
    – Manalive by GK Chesterton
    – Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
    – Kindred by Octavia Butler
    – Landline by Rainbow Rowell

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