Top Ten Books of 2009, Number Nine
— Monday, December 14th, 2009 —
Eugene Genovese, Miss Betsey: A Memoir of a Marriage
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a better example in print of a man honoring his wife and, beyond that, honoring marriage itself. Historian Eugene Genovese writes here a kind of love letter to his recently departed wife, scholar Elizabeth Fox-Genovese. The Genoveses were for many years Marxist atheists, though, as the book notes, probably the only Marxists “who believed in original sin and human depravity.”
The Genoveses became disillusioned with the Left due to the chaos of cultural liberation and the violence of sexual liberation, and ultimately became Christians.
There’s a lot in this book about Fox-Genovese’s passionate commitment to unborn life, to the dignity of women, her move away from feminism, and the troubles that caused her in academia. There’s a telling memoir of how a couple, together, go from materialism to Christian theism. And there’s a mini-history of the twentieth century in the lives of one couple who’ve seen it all.
But, more than that, there’s an extraordinary model of a marriage. Genovese says that they always counseled young couples to maintain courtesy in the marriage. The absence of “please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome” is the first step to divorce. They were right.
The Genoveses led an unusual life together, to be sure. But the way he walked with her through terminal illness, and the way he shows us her grace and beauty, without sentimentality or mawkishness, is why this book can help anyone who wants to see something of the glory of marriage as it can be.
Photograph courtesy of worldcat.org.