I was lucky enough to win a copy of The Wife by Meg Wolitzer with a ticket to go and see the movie. As you know, many film adaptions change the storyline a little so I wanted to read the novel before I went to see the film with my husband.
Genre: Contemporary fiction
The Wife is the story of the long and stormy marriage between a world-famous novelist, Joe Castleman, and his wife Joan, and the secret they’ve kept for decades. The novel opens just as Joe is about to receive a prestigious international award, The Helsinki Prize, to honour his career as one of America’s pre-eminent novelists. Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, finally decides to stop.
The book seems to begin with a commentary on marriage – and on a marriage that has lasted decades. And yet, as the novel moved between the present and different moments in the past, I became aware that it is much more than that. The novel describes more than just a women’s expected role in a marriage: to support the husband in his desires, to suppress one’s own desires and ambitions. It describes as well the expected role of women in a patriarchal society and how women respond to the expectation. Some women respond in open rebellion, some acquiesce completely, while others find a different way to achieve what they want. The wife in Wolitzer’s novel finds a way to ensure that she gets what she wants. But it is at a price. She plays second fiddle to her husband and her true talents are never acknowledged and recognised.
While reading the novel, I had to remember that the main character is a woman who became a wife in the 1950s and would not have had the same opportunities that women in our modern day have. I needed to remember this when she responded in ways that negated all that women have fought for in the past. And yet, on reflection, I realise that so many women do still respond as Joan Castleman does in this novel.
The Wife is a commentary on a type of relationship between a man and a woman. It is a commentary on how women often give up their own dreams to pursue the ones of their husbands. It is a commentary on the expectations of the husband and how he does not treasure the gift the woman has given to him. I enjoyed reading the novel as the commentary resonated with me as a woman, and as a wife. And yet I could not help feeling frustrated with so many of the choices made by the main character – maybe because I, myself, would never make those choices.
Even though I enjoyed reading the novel, it is not one that enamoured me; it is not one that made me turn the pages quickly to read the resolution. The Wife is a critique on marriage and on the relationships between men and women. It is a serious read and not one that will encourage the reader to forget about the cares of the world.
I give this novel ⭐⭐⭐ 3 stars.
© Colline Kook-Chun, 2018
(This novel was the 68th in my 50 book pledge for 2018)