Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Staff Pick - How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

If you want to see the Internet shaking with rage, just google the phrase How to Be a Good Wife.

How to Be a Good Wife is not only the title of Emma Chapman's novel, it is also the book that the novel's wife Marta is given by her mother-in-law. How to be a good wife instructs:

Make your home a place of peace and order.
Your husband belongs in the outside world. The house is your domain, and your responsibility.
Before he arrives home, freshen your make-up; put a ribbon in your hair.
Let your husband take care of the correspondence and finances of the household. Make it your job to be pretty and gay.

It's very obvious, very quickly that something is wrong with Marta Bjornstad. Marta has been married to Hector for so long that she cannot recall her life prior to their marriage when she was just a girl. Hector tells her that her parents were killed in a car crash and he rescued her, sick and starving on a doorstep. Hector gives her little pink pills to keep her on an even keel and instructs her never to leave their valley. She tries to be a good wife, she tries to follow the rules set out in her book, but she begins to unravel when her son Kylan leaves home.

It's hard to trust Hector.

Marta then decides to stop taking her pills and her behavior becomes erratic. She is having hallucinations (or are they memories?) of an emaciated blond girl, who reminds her of the girl her son brings home as his fiance. During a horrendous dinner party Marta behaves monstrously toward the girl, distressing all around her with her jealousy and insecurity, while Hector calmly and compassionately cares for Marta.

It's hard to trust Marta.

How to Be a Good Wife is a suspenseful and disturbing tale.  Who can we trust? The husband who conceals his faults from his wife, who controls her behavior, or, is he rather a beleaguered man worn down by years of caring for his fragile wife. Or do we trust Marta, who may have been drugged to forget her past, or perhaps is slipping into psychosis. Overall a gripping story that may leave you with more questions that answer.

One reviewer compared it to the classic The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, an early example of American feminist literature, in which another unreliable female narrator relates in first person her physician husband's treatment of her "nervous" condition. This rest cure so lacks in stimulation that the woman descends into psychosis eventually seeing a woman creeping in the pattern in the wallpaper. i go to sleep flyer i'm gone

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