and posted until almost a whole week later.
(That didn't happen yet either!) 😩
by Naomi Wood, 'cause I found it fascinating!
and if this one is any indication,
I was correct!
And a perfect selection to discuss the role and meaning of "wife"!
Literary Wives Online Book Discussion Group!
Make sure you check out the other Literary Wives cohosts' reviews:
Emily of The Bookshelf of Emily J
Naomi of Consumed by Ink
Kay of whatmeread
I believe Ariel of One Little Library and Kate of Kate Rae Davis took a break on this one!
I read books like this about women who are totally controlled by their husbands and immediately start thinking about how I would NEVER allow myself to be manipulated and exploited in such a way...and then I get real. 😏 I remember that I myself stayed in a marriage for 12 more years after I realized I was totally unhappy! Ah, as much as I would like to think I would NEVER allow myself to be put in some of these marriage situations, then I realize I was in a marriage situation I would have NEVER imagined myself to be in...let alone remain in...for so long. So my point is that I guess we never really know for sure in which situations we may find ourselves...or how we may react, until we're there! I am also reminded of another book I just finished reading, An Untamed State by Roxane Gay. I'm sure Mireille never imagined she would ever be accosted in such ways, let alone that she could survive such travails, but she did... Though Joan's situation is much different, she is still in a situation she would have never imagined for herself. And she somehow copes.
I liked the way Wolitzer takes us back and forth from Helsinki to flashbacks of Joan and Joe and their life together, and though we don't get much detail about their children, I think we get enough. Their only son and youngest child, David, is actually a rather troubled soul who has never seemed to find himself. Though we discover much later that David more than 'suspects' the truth of his mother and father's relationship, especially with regard to work/writing, and it rattles him to his core.
Joe and Joan have been married over 40 years when he finally wins a large international literary prize, the Helsinki Prize, which Wolitzer describes as somewhat less than the Pulitzer or Nobel, but up there, definitely a recognition pinnacle for his lifelong contribution to literature. Flying to Helsinki, Joan muses about her husband:
one of those men who own the world.
You know the type I mean...They own everything...
There are many varieties of this kind of man:
slack-bellied novelist who almost never slept,
who was as entertaining as anyone I have ever known, who had no idea of how to
The Dylan Thomas Handbook of Personal Hygiene and Etiquette. (11)
Joe represented an anomaly among writers for his time,
as his friend Harry, a poet, states:
to me, having read the book all the way through! If only
you knew the truth, Harry...if only! 😲 And no wonder
Joe absolutely refused poor Nathaniel Bone's offer to
write an authorized biography of the man...again,
as I finished the book I could understand the
impossibility of such a project.
the thing they actually liked. (82)
If you leave, then you can preserve yourself better.
But if you stay, then essentially you're saying:
I'm immortal, I don't need to sleep or rest or eat or take a breath. (121)
Joan had not only reached a point of needing to end this sham of a 'marriage,' but she had also decided to meet with Nathaniel Bone and give him details regarding Joe that he could use to write about the man. I wonder so often in the aftermath of having read this book if she really would have betrayed Joe in that way. But we will never know. She certainly refused to do so after his death. I admit I wondered how much of her motivation to retain the pretense of authorship was due to the attitudes of others toward 'women writers,' and how much was due to loyalty. And honestly, would society have believed her overall? Especially once Joe was no longer alive to confirm or deny?
In speaking of Joe's infidelity: