Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How To Be a Good Wife; Emma Chapman

How To Be a Good Wife; Emma Chapman
Picador - 2014
In this story Marta Bjornstad, is a married woman living in an unnamed Scandinavian county. She and her husband Hector, have an adult son named Kylan who lives away from home.  Marta never leaves the house, and it's clear from the very beginning of the novel that she suffers from some type of mental health issues, or at the very least something disturbing is going on in her life. She begins smoking and doesn't even know where the cigarettes came from. She also begins having visions of a young girl with blonde hair. 

Hector who is some 20 years older than Marta is always asking his wife if she has taken her medication. She tells him she has, but in truth she has not.  When her anxiety is running high she smokes.  Her mother-in-law is an annoying piece of work, always reminding her how important keeping a fine house and pleasing her husband is. On Marta and Hector's wedding day, the MIL gave her a book called, "How To Be a Good Wife", which Marta has long memorized, frequently reciting the things a "good wife" is expected to do.

So is Marta a reliable narrator?  How did she and Hector meet way back when? Are these visions Marta is having significant to something that may have happened early on in her life? 

This is a very good debut novel. The writing is edgy and driven by Marta's thoughts, feelings and actions. It is easy to feel sympathy for Marta as well.  There are very few characters in the story and not a lot happens, at least not until a dinner party for her son and his soon-to-be-wife. The evening throws Marta's fragile mental state even more off kilter.  This isn't a very long novel, but it's one that will be remembered. In some ways this novel reminded me of The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane -- not sure why, except that the protagonist in both stories led a very isolated life, that in some ways affected her well being.  I liked How To Be a Good Wife, even though felt a little disappointed by the ending.  It's a quick read a page turner as well - try it and see what you think.

4/5 stars
(sent by publisher)

20 comments:

  1. The unreliable narrator piece reminds me of Tom Rob Smith's The Farm...and I did enjoy that and the process of trying to figure out what the truth was.

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  2. You've certainly piqued my interest!

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  3. I have this but the comparisons to The Yellow Wallpaper has made me not want to pick it up!

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  4. Wow I like the sound of this even though it sounds like a disturbing read in some ways. It sounds like there are a lot of questions that I'd like to hear the answers too. Thanks for sharing! I hadn't heard of this one before.

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  5. I have had this one forever!! Now I really want to read it.

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  6. I don't know, this might not be a guy book.

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    1. Nope, you are right.....That would be How to Be a Good Husband...LOL

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  7. I thought this book was well-constructed. The ending was especially good, with us wondering if Marta was reliable or not.

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    1. See, I like that you enjoyed the ending, I was thinking it might have been different.

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  8. Diane, you've whetted my interest in this book, even though you found the ending a bit disappointing. Terrific review!

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  9. I enjoyed this one too (and The Night Guest). There is something very appealing about stories that suggest someone is "gaslighting" or playing tricks on another. Vulnerability seems to draw me in, too.

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  10. The title definitely caught my eye and it sounds like a really intriguing read. I think sometimes authors create such a yarn that they don't know how to wrap it up at the ending! Too bad this one lost steam but it still sounds like a good one.

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  11. Unreliable narrators have grown on me recently. The keep you on your toes!

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  12. Sometimes unreliable narrators drive me batty so I can only take so many. This looks good.

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