Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review: When We Argued All Night by Alice Mattison

I love, love, love reading a book that keeps me wishing there were 1,000 chapters in it. Alice Mattison has written such a book. I have read  many books about female friendships, seems I always pick up a few for summer reading. But this book is very different, it about a seventy-five year friendship between two men.
And it is kind of an off/on again relationship. They argue about all of life's big questions and  even some of the minor ones, don't see each other for lengths of time, and when they finally bump into each other they just pick up where they left off.
Artie & Harold are children of Jewish immigrant parents. They live in NY and in their twenties are trying to carve out a place to live their lives. Harold is  thoughtful about things, Artie is kind of an obnoxious guy. They both get into teaching and are relatively happy. Then, Harold decides to join the Communist Party, more I think to impress  his friends than anything else. Artie argues constantly with him over his decision, all through the night at one point. As Harold starts to realize he has made the wrong choice, he leaves the party. McCarthyism takes over the US and Artie tells Harold that if he is called forward to testify, that he will turn Harold in, because he loves his teaching job and wants to keep it. Harold wishes Artie would lie, because Harold is no longer a "Red", but Artie insists he will save his own skin. Harold tells Artie that he will understand, hopes it doesn't come to that. But the time does come and Artie is called upon, ....before he goes he talks to a lawyer about his options. He pleads the fifth and loses his job. A jealous coworker of Artie's turns Harold in anyway. Harold loses his job, too.
And what happens to both these men in the insueing years is what the book is about. How they each handled this big change. Their attitudes and actions. They both married and had children. They both got other jobs. One was more successful than the other ( I am not giving this away) We get to meet their wives, lovers and children. How they maintained their friendship over 75 years, ups & downs, arguments and absences. I can tell you in the last couple of chapters, I can see the death of one of the two coming and I could feel the loss.
When I first started reading the book, I wasn't sure I could get used to the author's very casual style of writing. Sometimes it is conversation, sometimes it is a thought......But as you read along, and start to know your characters, it is very smooth and easy reading. Such a good book. I recommend you add this to your reading  list.

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