Set in Scandinavia, How to be a Good Wife is a true psychological head wreck. Stay well away if you like clear cut endings but if you enjoy clever writing and analysing different theories then this one won’t disappoint. It might frustrate the hell out of you but it is intelligent and absorbing.How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman
Published by St Martins Press on 15 Oct 2013
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In the tradition of Emma Donoghue's Room and S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, a haunting literary debut about a woman who begins having visions that make her question everything she knows
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
Marta, a middle aged woman who is married with one adult son, decides to stop taking her medication one day. And then her world shifts dramatically as suddenly she sees visions and the truth is no longer clearly defined.
My Thoughts :
How to be a Good Wife is really well written with clever thoughtful prose. Marta lives a drab, dreary, routine filled life. She organises her life by the clock and really she seems to do nothing but endless chores. The language used and the imagery hammers home this feeling of hopeless drudgery, everything is described as grey or dull from her house to the road outside. Her mother-in-law gave her a book about ‘How to be a Good Wife’ as a present when she first got married and whereas most people would laugh their heart out at this type of old-fashioned nonsensical book, Marta follows it like a bible.
Most of my reviews are spoiler free but I honestly can’t review this one properly without one. So warning….View Spoiler »
When she stops taking her pills, there are two possible scenarios. One is a descent in to madness. Or two, she is remembering a horrific past. This book keeps you guessing and guessing and never resolves itself, it is left up to you the reader to decide. I applaud the author for taking this approach as I think it’s brave. But I’d like to know the truth! I like things to be wrapped up neatly with no room for ambiguity. I have my suspicions based on an internet search done by her son but what if…..
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Marta is a hard character to connect to. She seems weak and feeble and to have no spirit at all. And both scenarios make sense of why that would be the case. However as it’s written in first person perspective this makes the book difficult to connect to at the start. Once the plot starts to take off, this mattered less and less to me as I just wanted to know what was going on. But well you know how that turned out for me!
Her husband is either a mad man or a man to be pitied. Shrugs, who knows! I didn’t find him likeable but then again as this was told from Marta’s point of view, I wasn’t meant to.
Overall a quick read, that wrecked my head a bit but a fun one to speculate about. It’s chilling and sober with an underlying feeling of danger lurking. Very impressive for a debut novel.
Who should read How to be a Good Wife?
If you like haunting psychological thrillers and don’t need everything wrapped up neatly, then I’d recommend this one to you. Fans of Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson should also enjoy.
Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.