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)