Matron of Honor

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

MATRON OF HONOR is another perceptive novel by the author of SMALL VICTORIES (1992). Again Sallie Bingham exposes the inner lives of her characters, tracing their quiet struggles for happiness and even for survival. The two Mason sisters seem to have everything. They are both charming, attractive young women from a well-to-do family, who have been loved and pampered by their parents and given the freedom to shape their lives, as long as they fulfill the expectations of the upper-class Southern society into which they were born. The older girl, Corinne, or “Cory,” has done well; she is the wife of an ambitious New York lawyer. As the novel begins, the younger daughter, Adeline, or “Apple,” is about to marry a promising young man who works for her father. Then Cory arrives, announcing that she has left her husband for a married man. What her mother most fears is that Cory will ruin the wedding by creating a public scandal. Moving through the minds of her characters, one at a time, Bingham suggests that Cory’s situation is hardly unique. In a society which restricts women to subordinate roles, very few of them can find fulfillment. Just as Cory resents having her husband treat her like his official hostess, and an inadequate at that, so Apple will be infuriated when Billy Long carries out his plans to break her, as he does his horses. Sensing that Apple is making a mistake by marrying Billy, Cory tries to halt the ceremony, but she fails. Nevertheless, the novel ends with her own public declaration of independence.