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The Wife

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  4,110 ratings  ·  593 reviews
"The moment I decided to leave him, the moment I thought, enough, we were thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean, hurtling forward but giving the illusion of stillness and tranquility. "Just like our marriage."" So opens Meg Wolitzer's compelling and provocative novel "The Wife," as Joan Castleman sits beside her husband on their flight to Helsinki. Joan's husband, Jose ...more
Hardcover, 211 pages
Published March 25th 2003 by Scribner Book Company
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Aliki Barnstone
Some reviewers have said they find the wife's motivations unbelievable. They must be younger people, who didn't experience the transformation that feminism brought about for women writers. I'm both glad and concerned that they can take for granted the opportunities that have opened up for women. This book captures exactly the bind women have been in for most of history; in this case Joan Castleman comes of age in the '50s. The book is wonderfully written, engaging, historically accurate, and man ...more
This was a great book. The only two drawbacks are that she used some strong profanity in parts and that from the beginning you can figure out the ending. However, the following passage makes up for it (I read it to my husband) "Everyone knows how women soldier on, how women dream up blueprints, recipes, ideas for a better world, and then sometimes lose them on the way to the crib in the middle of the night, on the way to Stop and Shop, or the bath. They lose them on the way to greasing the path ...more
Nicole Bonia
“The moment I decided to leave him, the moment I thought enough, we were thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean hurtling forward but giving the illusion of stillness and tranquility.”

Joan Castleman is on an airplane accompanying her husband, writer Joseph Castleman, to Helsinki, Finland where he is being honored with the Helsinki Prize in Literature, one step down from the Nobel Prize for Literature, which he knows that he will not get. Over the next four days, Joan revisits their courtship a
I'm sick of the lovelorn and unrequited: give me a woman who can't stand her husband, oddly enough, brought to my attention many years ago by my father, who always knows a a good author when he reads one, despite his congenital misogyny.

I'm in love so far, complete love, like a Philip Roth novel if Philip Roth weren't so flawed and frustrating. Bad analogy perhaps but she has the same comfort with describing male0-female interactions, a biting sense of humor, a lack of shame regarding human wea
3 stars - It was good.

What an odd, despondent little book. This was the first book I have read by Wolitzer and I was struck by her unique writing style - very candid and frank, yet at the same time ornate and flowery. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but it is the best way I can describe it. Her distinctive writing style is enough to make me want to pick up another book by her. This particular story, however, became slow somewhere on the back 1/2, and the big "reveal" at the ending was obvious t
This book is fantastic. I love the unique perspective of the protagonist: an introspective and talented woman who grew up in the 50s who spends her life married to a famous novelist who is really nothing more than a big kid. She makes a decision that historically stymes feminists, but this book gives her perspective in a fresh and convincing new way.

She's got fresh, beautiful ways of looking at things that are so perfect and sharp and spot-on that it leaves you wondering why you hadn't come to t
Nancy K
I always read a handful of reviews before I make my own comments, just to see where others are coming from.

I'm seeing a lot of discussion about unlikable characters (I agree) and the author not giving the married partners a chance to demonstrate what made the marriage fail in the way of dialogue and daily interactions (also true).

But to those who say that Joan was a spoiled, stay-at-home mother who made the choice to give up her career, I say that's not fair.

Women didn't have the same opportunit
I had a hard time deciding how many stars to give this one. I ended up giving the author the benefit of the doubt and went with three instead of two. The main character, Joan, was almost unbearable as her older self. I found her much easier to deal with as her younger self. The beginning of the book was about the older characters and I nicknamed them Joe (which, coincidentally was actually the husband's name) and Wendy after Joe and Wendy Whiner. These two were a perfect match for each other. Sh ...more
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Sunny Shore
I read this 220 page book in one evening and one morning. It's chick lit at the highest level and so well-written. The author sets you up for the twisted ending - that's all I'll say, but you don't really see it coming. I had to give it a 5 - it was that good. The narrator is a little too giving and her husband is a little too much of a macho pig, but it works here and you understand everything at the end. Read it - you won't put it down.
Karen C.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Wife. Meg Wolitzer. 2003. Scribner. 219 pages. ISBN 0743456661.

If you've never read a novel by Meg Wolitzer, you're in for a treat, especially if you've chosen to read The Wife.

As the wife of a successful writer, Joan Castleman makes the decision to leave her husband while in the midst of a flight to Helsinki to attend an award ceremony on his behalf. As Wolitzer switches between past and present, thus unfolds the story of the Castleman's relationship spanning forty years; which according to
It's weird, because this book frets over competence vs. brilliance and the scope of the female writer vs. the male writer, and... it's, in my opinion, a competent book by a female writer. Awkward.

Not to be flippant. I was really engaged and think Wolitzer is a tremendously thoughtful writer, word to word. It's just that I needed to believe that the Castleman novels that had received such accolades and moved the plot forward so many times actually existed and had been conceived by this great mind
Emily Wortman-wunder
Alas, I was disappointed by The Wife...I liked The Position quite a bit, and I was interested to read a book about suppressed creativity, and the forces that can go about suppressing it...only to find out, of course, that the creativity in question was not suppressed! At all! In fact, it was richly rewarded, if only to the wrong person. Which was a great joke, etc., but didn't really answer the deep-seated question I brought to the book, which was: what is this thing called creativity, anyway? H ...more
What I knew about this book stemmed from people commenting on the writing. What that means to me is that the ways information is conveyed on the page is unique, thoughtful and not cliche. It means that no matter what the subject, a person will want to turn the page because the words are arranged just so that you the reader are being entrusted with something. There isn't any other fancy element to the story. You don't need a crazy plot or a mystery to see to the end or juicy gossipy chick literat ...more
Anita Kelley Harris
The beginning of this book really grabbed me. The voice was moving and the early plot was interesting: a woman is on an airplane with the husband she had been with for a long time, and has decided at that very moment to leave him.

Of course, such a decision is never made at that very moment. A lot has gone into such a decision. And so the narrator takes us back with her through the history of the relationship between her and her husband. We find out that it began in the 1950's, when she was his c
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book begins with Joan Castleman deciding to leave her husband Joe onboard a flight headed to Helsinki where Joe will be honored with a major literary prize. Joan has spent her life subjugating her own literary talents to help prop up Joe’s career as a novelist, and now at 64, hurtling to Finland, she’s tired of it.

Despite being only 220 pages, the characters are complex and well-developed, the scenes are vivid, and the pace and plot felt very thoughtful. This was the first book by Wolitzer
Hard to put down from the moment I started reading. Meg Wolitzer's The Wife moves along rather quickly going back and forth between Joann Castleman's past, when she and her husband Joe met and their years together as husband and wife, and the present where they are in Helsinki, Finland where Joe is to accept a coveted literary award.

The story opens with Joann and Joe on a flight to Finland; Joann is contemplating her long years of marriage to Joe. Readers are given an intimate look into Joann's
Niki Bliss-Carroll
Wolitzer embraces the voice of the engendered “Other” through the first-person perspective of her character Joan Castleman. The reader is immediately exposed to Joan’s complicated sentiments regarding her husband of nearly 40 years as they are traveling to Finland where he will receive a prestigious literary award. In the opening pages of the novel, she declares her intent to leave him, and then takes the reader on a journey through her memories, offering a much different perspective of her husb ...more

Intimate. If I had to describe Meg Wolitzer's The Wife in one word that's what it would be. Intimate not only in scope, focusing on Joan's struggles with her marriage, but in form as well, with the entire novel told entirely from her perspective in a kind of stream of consciousness. As a narrative tool, it succeeds, genuinely feeling like you're spending 200 or so pages inside Joan's head, experiencing Helsinki and the memories it conjures up right along with her.

Still, despite the intimacy of t

I think this book really hit a little too close to me to appreciate.
I picked it up at first and was very taken by the acerbic wit, but the bitterness that washed over me in droves from Joan's narrative was really heavy and depressing. I had a REALLY hard time with this one.
Usually what keeps me reading is I see myself in some of the characters, or at least I like them and can root for them.
I did see some of myself in Joan, but it wasn't something I liked.
The more I read, the more I realized the
Judy Mann
I am completely at a loss here. There were times in this book - in the first hundred pages- when I was so astounded by Meg Wolitzer's writing that I was almost overwhelmed.Really- There are mediocre writers who tell stories and then there are brilliant writers who tell stories. Meg Wolitzer is in my mind- a brilliant writer. Now keep in mind that I can't stand adjectives at all. If I see more than two adjectives on the first page- I am gone. I hate fluttery curlicues in a book. I just hate adjec ...more
Karen Taylor
The Wife, by Meg Wolitzer
I enjoyed this book. Wolitzer’s first line hooked me and her writing kept me interested throughout. She captured the culture of the time periods from the 50s through the 60s and onward in a realistic way, including anti-Semitism exhibited by Joan’s mother.
The characters were believable, and I love the humor, especially the scene with the walnut projectile. Due to the patriarchal climate in which the character, Joan, was born and raised, the journey she makes through h
On a flight to Finland in first class, Joan Castleman realizes she's going to leave her husband of more than 40 years, Joe, who is about to pick up the prestigious Helsinki prize for fiction. Wolitzer adroitly pilots the narrative back to the '50s when 19-year-old Joan first meets Joe, her professor at Smith. Wolitzer's trajectory--and this novel as and agenda--takes the Castlemans through Greenwich Village, the cradle for the whiskey soaked boy's club of New York writers, nurtured by the often ...more
Suzanna Phillips
Joan was a hopeful literature student getting a nice education in the 1950s when she fell in love with her professor and after that, ‘it was history” as they say. This tale of Joe and Joan and the husband’s slow rise to literary success keeps you engaged and guessing until the very end. Wolitzer explores the subculture of the American author, the allowances given to this group, the excesses granted. As you take this road with the married couple you learn not only about a couple finding their way ...more
Meg Wolitzer, author of The Wife, tells am insightful tale of society, marriage, infidelity, triumph, heartbreak, and loss. On the surface, it seems like a story of domestic marital struggles, yet there is a whisper of something bigger happening. Wolitzer writes with humor and wit. Her characters come alive on the page. The story is told through the viewpoint of Joan, who reflects back on her relationship and marriage to Joe Castleman, an author. The book opens with Joan’s confession that she is ...more
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Kali Oldacre
This was my first foray into reading Meg Wolitzer, and I will definitely be looking into her other novels. With this work, Wolitzer offers an entertaining telling of the complicated marriage of Joe and Joan Castleman as they fly to Helsinki for Joe to receive the lesser Noble Prize—Helsinki Prize— and Joan recognizes her desire to leave her husband after 40 years of marriage. As I began this book, I assumed a fairly predictable storyline, but was most pleasantly surprised.

From the outset, Wolit
Sarah Anne
I feel that I should write Meg Wolitzer some sort of apology letter for prematurely judging her novel. The Wife was a brilliant and intuitive novel about the sacrifices that a wife makes to further her husband’s achievements. I mistook the greater part of the novel for a hackneyed portrayal of a wife, Joan Castleman, who felt that she had not occupied her full potential because of her early marriage to Joe Castleman. However I was entirely mistaken. The plot twist at the end of the novel when Jo ...more
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Meg Wolitzer is the author of The Ten-Year Nap and seven previous novels, including The Position and The Wife . Her short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize.

Author photo copyright Deborah Copaken.
More about Meg Wolitzer...
The Interestings Belzhar The Ten-Year Nap The Uncoupling The Position

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“Everyone needs a wife; even wives need wives. Wives tend, they hover. Their ears are twin sensitive instruments, satellites picking up the slightest scrape of dissatisfaction. Wives bring broth, we bring paper clips, we bring ourselves and our pliant, warm bodies. We know just what to say to the men who for some reason have a great deal of trouble taking consistent care of themselves or anyone else. “Listen,” we say. “Everything will be okay.” And then, as if our lives depend on it, we make sure it is.” 2 likes
“I’ve always had a fear of being small and ordinary. “How can I just have this one life?” 1 likes
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