When an Alison Lurie novel turns up, I read it, for the pleasure of her acute social observations and her believable characters. Love and Friendship is her first published novel, before the better-known The War between the Tates and Foreign Affairs.
Alison Lurie taught for many years at Cornell; she knows academic life and academic people. In small and prestigious — but isolated — Convers College, a new young instructor struggles to establish himself. His wife struggles with the weather and, mostly, her boredom. She has not yet read Betty Friedan but she knows what is right, based on her privileged education in a well-off family. Despite this knowledge, she has an engrossing and — shall we say — satisfying affair. When, however, she reflected on the consequences of breaking up her marriage, this reader had serious doubts she could go through with it:
The truth was, no time would be good for such news. It was utterly impossible that it should be be well received. Previously it had not occurred to Emmy to wonder what her parents would say. She did not have to wonder now; she knew. Dada had not liked Holman in the beginning, but now it he was used to him. He was accustomed to the idea that his daughter was Mrs. Holman Turner, and he disliked altering his ideas. When he heard that Will had been married before and had not made a go of it, he would consider him a bad risk, like a corporation which had once already been liquidated, and he would look upon him with suspicion and scorn….
The book is a well-paced picture of a marriage gone wrong between two well-meaning but naive practitioners of that compromising art. In this first novel, Lurie already has a firm grasp of character development, but the structure of her book is somewhat scattered, with too many points of view and a chorus of comments by another outsider who does not participate in the action and whom we never meet.