A Union Like Ours: The Love Story of F.O. Matthiessen and Russell Cheney

Tantor Audio. Dec. 2022. 7:14 hrs. ISBN 9798765015704. $19.99. BIOG
Bane, a program officer at the John A. Hartford Foundation, presents a dual biography of F.O. Matthiessen (1902–1950) and Russell Cheney (1881–1945), whose lifelong romantic partnership transcended discrimination before legal protections for same-sex relationships existed. The two met on the ocean liner Paris, bound for Europe in 1924, and they later established their home in Kittery, ME. Both men were born into a life of privilege. Cheney was the youngest of 11 children, born into a family whose fortune came from the Cheney Brothers Silk Manufacturing Company, while Matthiessen’s family were heirs to the Westclox alarm clock fortune. Both men attended Yale and were members of the Skull and Bones secret society. They each pursued careers—Cheney as a successful painter and Matthiessen as a notable literary critic and professor. Their careers often kept them apart (Matthiessen would teach at both Yale and Harvard), but they maintained a voluminous correspondence. While Bane’s account is engrossing, Erik Bloomquist’s rapid-fire narration requires intense concentration. Additionally, frequent volume changes make for an occasionally jarring listening experience.
VERDICT Despite flaws in the audio, this is an arresting account of how a same-sex relationship endured amid societal conflicts and a solid examination of the men’s respective works.
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