Review: How to Be a Good Wife

November 21, 2014 book review 1

How to Be a Good Wife

  • Written by:  Emma Chapman
  • Published by:  Picador paperback release November 4, 2014
  • Length:  304 pages
  • Source:  Received from publisher in consideration of an honest review

Summary from publisher:  Marta and Hector have been married for a long time. Through the good and bad; through raising a son and sending him off to life after university. So long, in fact, that Marta finds it difficult to remember her life before Hector. He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife—as advised by a dog-eared manual given to her by Hector’s aloof mother on their wedding day.

But now, something is changing. Small things seem off. A flash of movement in the corner of her eye, elapsed moments that she can’t recall. Visions of a blonde girl in the darkness that only Marta can see. Perhaps she is starting to remember—or perhaps her mind is playing tricks on her. As Marta’s visions persist and her reality grows more disjointed, it’s unclear if the danger lies in the world around her, or in Marta herself. The girl is growing more real every day, and she wants something.

My Thoughts

This book has an unsettling feel to it.  I felt from the start that Marta was somehow off, but then again she was on to whatever it was Hector was doing for her, or hovering around her.  She’s skeptical of the pink pills he gives her, and when she begins to fake taking them, her mind seems clearer to her in many ways, less foggy, but more confusing in what she does feel.

I believed there had been a great trauma in Marta’s life.  She was very young when she married.  She met Hector on vacation and he saved her from drowning.  Her parents had both died.  Her mother in law gives her a rather old fashioned book, How to Be a Good Wife, and bits and pieces are scattered in the book, in a macabre ode to how she should behave.  What Chapman shares with us about Marta’s life now is her rote behavior, cleaning, cooking, shopping, taking care of her husband in an almost blind repetitive motion.  He is a professor, and much older than her.

Marta and Hector’s son is grown and has now left.  When he returns with a girlfriend we see Hazel act like a jealous lover around her son.  Her actions are out of place.  Marta is also having delusions of a young girl, is this something from her past of a foreboding premonition?  The reader realizes that Hazel is unreliable.

This is a captivating debut, it reads like a thriller, but it moves at a slower pace. It’s a look into a marriage and the psychological workings of one woman.  I enjoyed the book, feeling like I had to know what was going on.  There is a sadness in the end, but definitely a book worth reading.

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