Book reviews

deptDept. Of Speculation by Jenny Offill is the story of a marriage, told by the wife in a series of anecdotes.

The reader does not learn the wife’s name (or the husband’s) but this does not matter. For such a slim book which tells the story in such an unusual way, the reader gets to know the couple surprisingly well, albeit through the wife’s eyes.

The story starts when the couple first met, and tell the reader about the wife’s background; She has been in love many times before meeting the husband, she has a sister and she wanted to be an art monster. The husband and wife swap stories and start to create memories which become ‘their’ stories. They send each other love letters using the code words, “Dept. of Speculation’ to describe their relationship and marriage.

They have a child. Life becomes more difficult. Their marriage becomes frayed.

The issues this couple face are probably similar to those which many couples experience. Falling in love, beginning a shared life, having a baby together, career difficulties, bedbugs (ugh), loss of trust, uncertainty…

Reading between the lines, I think the wife in this relationship is probably high maintenance. I did feel sorry for her though, because she obviously lost herself somewhere along the line. Sometimes I felt annoyed hearing every single thing that went through her head. Probably her husband did too, although that isn’t a good enough reason for him to have had an affair. I didn’t love this book, but that is because I hate stories of infidelity – give me a happy romance any day.

The anecdotal style is very interesting though and added to the intensity of the story.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Dept. of Speculation turns out to be one of those books that I’m still thinking about years after reading.


Comments on: "Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill" (2)

  1. I guess to me, books like this would be so much better/happier/more readable if the husband didn’t actually have an affair, and if, instead, after growing apart, the couple learned to grow together again. It frustrates me sometimes that most fictional couples portray marriage as something that cannot be mended through commitment and hard work. Instead, they always seem to take the easy road out – just finding someone new – instead of learning to work together through a new season of marriage.

    Ah well, people seem to enjoy (???) books about failed marriages/infidelity, even though it isn’t my cup of tea!!

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