Sunday, March 3, 2019

Book Review: The Wife

Author: Meg Wolitzer
Title: The Wife
Publisher: Scribner
Publish Date: March 23, 2003
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: "The moment I decided to leave him, the moment I thought, enough, we were thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean, hurtling forward but giving the illusion of stillness and tranquility. Just like our marriage." So opens Meg Wolitzer's compelling and provocative novel The Wife, as Joan Castleman sits beside her husband on their flight to Helsinki. Joan's husband, Joseph Castleman, is "one of those men who own the world...who has no idea how to take care of himself or anyone else, and who derives much of his style from the Dylan Thomas Handbook of Personal Hygiene and Etiquette." He is also one of America's preeminent novelists, about to receive a prestigious international award to honor his accomplishments, and Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, has finally decided to stop.

From this gripping opening, Wolitzer flashes back fifty years to 1950s Smith College and Greenwich Village -- the beginning of the Castleman relationship -- and follows the course of the famous marriage that has brought them to this breaking point, culminating in a shocking ending that outs a carefully kept secret.

Wolitzer's most important and ambitious book to date, The Wife is a wise, sharp-eyed, compulsively readable story about a woman forced to confront the sacrifices she's made in order to achieve the life she thought she wanted. But it's also an unusually candid look at the choices all men and women make for themselves, in marriage, work, and life. With her skillful storytelling and pitch-perfect observations, Wolitzer invites intriguing questions about the nature of partnership and the precarious position of an ambitious woman in a man's world.

Review: I was so excited to read this book considering all the hype surrounding the movie. I've not seen the film, but truthfully I hope it is better than this disappointment of a book.

We start out with Joan on a plane with her husband traveling to Helsinki to receive an award for literature. She decides she's leaving her husband. From there on we see the events that lead up to this point in her life.

The book is short so everything feels really hurried and there was no reason to like or care for Joan as the long suffering wife, though there is plenty of reasons to dislike Joe Castleman.

The book is very much a picture of marriage in 50s, when women were housewives for the most part, and who spent their lives doing for their husbands and families and not for themselves.  The problem for me was how Joan became Mrs. Castleman and then how she stayed with him through the years.

I wanted more of why she stayed so long with him, when there was no reason to love him and as they hit the 60s and 70s, heck I really wanted the why of their marriage in the first place. She gave up her own life for someone that brought nothing to the table.

The buildup to the "big" ending was set up almost from the beginning, so that reveal wasn't much of a surprise for me, but more disappointing than that was the actual ending which really was sad for all the characters involved.

This book was about 200 pages of meh for me.

Rating: 2 flowers


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