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How To Be a Good Wife: A Novel

3.34  ·  Rating Details ·  4,742 Ratings  ·  930 Reviews
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 d
ebook, 288 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by St. Martin's Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Make your home a place of peace and order.

Your husband belongs in the outside world. The house is your domain, and your responsibility.

Let your husband take care of the correspondence and finances of the household. Make it your job to be pretty and gay.

Hmmmmm I didn't go by any of these rules when I was married...maybe that is why I have an EX-husband -who I like to call- "Those we don't speak of".

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...Oh yes... now about this book...

This was one of the most
In an unspecific Scandinavian setting, a woman called Marta is beginning to remember strange things. The book opens with her realising - with some surprise at herself - that she is a smoker. As the story progresses, she starts to be haunted by increasingly strong and bizarre visions of a young girl, who seems to be trying to tell her something. Marta is revealed to have a certain set of beliefs about her life: her parents died in an accident when she was a teenager, and she was found in a state ...more
Yay!! Currently re-reading for the second of my two book clubs. If you liked The Vegetarian or Eileen or My Name Is Lucy Barton, then this might just work for you - although the general GR ratings aren't that high..

It is five stars for me, though.

This is one of the most intriguing unreliable narrator stories Ive ever read. PLEASE - do not let the title lead you to think this is chick lit! I clawed through this amazing psychological thriller in one day. Excellent, dark, and addictive. Lucy Barton
Mar 22, 2014 Dem rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How to be a good wife by Emma Chapman was and interesting and unsettling read.

I really enjoy books set in Scandinavia and How to be a good wife tells the story of Marta and Hector who have been married for a long time - so long that she finds it difficult to remember her life before him. He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife. But when Hector comes home with a secret, their ordered domestic life begins to unravel, and Marta begins to see thi
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

3.5 Stars

Marta and Hector have been married for 25 years. She has always been a good wife, catering to Hector’s needs, taking care of the house and their son. Hector has always been a good husband, making sure the bills are paid and that Marta takes her medicine as prescribed. Once Marta decides to stop swallowing her pills and begins throwing them in the bin instead, strange things begin to happen. A young girl appears to her – variou
Patrice Hoffman
Who says you can't write a book and have one of the most important plot points left unanswered yet still be a satisfying read? Emma Chapman does this (and well) with her debut novel How To Be a Good Wife.

We're inside the mind of a woman who could very well be losing her mind. Marta Bjornstad is smoking, but doesn't remember she's a smoker. Finding items askew that she doesn't remember moving. And she's having strange visions that could be hallucinations.

There are a lot of holes to her past but
Nicola Mansfield
Oct 15, 2013 Nicola Mansfield rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Well, honestly, I wasn't overly fond of this and I guess I'm going to be in the minority here but so be it. Typically this is just the sort of book that I usually like; the unreliable narrator, the not knowing who is telling the truth. I found the story interesting and didn't have any problem finishing it but I kept waiting for something to happen. The first half of the book, I just kept thinking "would something happen now? please!" and then when it did it was what I had expected but the book d ...more
Diane S ☔
Oct 09, 2013 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book captivated me from the very first chapter, the writing was to the point, not flowery in any way. The details described were only those needed to accentuate the plot. Very chilling, psychologically creepy, and in the beginning I was not sure what was going on. I thought one way and than another, I knew something was not right but was never really sure what that something was.

Everything fit together so well, kept me interested throughout and at the end all I could think was that this was
Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
A dark, compelling and very unsettling domestic thriller from a debut author.
Jul 27, 2013 Dianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Psychological thriller about a middle-aged married woman, Marta, who is suffering from empty nest syndrome after her only son leaves home. She has been taking anti-depressant drugs for some time and she decides to stop taking them to see what will happen. Maybe her son will come back and help take care of her. Marta begins to suffer hallucinations involving a young girl with blond hair - or are they memories? Is her husband really trying to help her or is he covering something up? And is she rea ...more
Sep 27, 2013 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
Marta has always tried to be a good wife and her memory tells her she was, up until her son left home to live in the city, start a life of his own. In his absence, the façade begins to crack. She begins to see and hear things. She finds a cigarette in her hands, but has no memory of buying the package. In the market, she slips into a fugue state. Two hours have passed when she leaves—without having bought anything.

Clinging to her routine, to the way things should be done, Marta navigates what s
Deborah Markus
The short review: Creepy creepy creepy creepy

The details: This is yet another book that I found hard to read because it was so intense and at the same time so soft-spoken that every time my family interrupted me, or even just casually walked into the room where I was reading, I wanted to scream and throw something.

I seem to be feeling that way a lot lately, reading-wise. I think it's time to switch to decaf novels.

Anyway. This book gripped me all the way through and I couldn't stop thinking abou
Jul 25, 2014 hayden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars

Damn this little book!

It's short. Deceptively short. You think nothing too good could come out of it for being so short.

WELL GUESS AGAIN. (It's late I'm tired I should write this another day oh well.)

This book kind of shocked me. Actually, let me try again: it really shocked me. I totally thought it wasn't going to achieve what it ended up achieving. I thought it was going to be your standard Gone Girl knockoff, complete with a mid-center twist and an ominous ending that may or may not in
Sandra Yates
Feb 23, 2013 Sandra Yates rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Devoured it in one gulp. Emma Chapman resists the obvious and creates a genuine thriller from a largely interior character. Brilliant debut!

I always see this word while reading reviews, or blurbs in the cover of hardback books, but have never used it myself. Since I’m usually one of those people who can predict the ending and turns of stories, I’m not easily fazed (maybe only once, while reading Stephen King’s Misery, but I was young and didn’t know any better). I’m glad there’s finally a book where I can use this particular word in my review.


Yes, haunting, chilling, poignant, evocative, stirring, startling, unner
Review by
I love reading psychological thrillers. How To Be A good wife is certainly a must buy must read. I have never felt so unnerving reading a book before. It is a very clever first novel by Emma Chapman. This author I will follow from now on.

I don't want to give away too much.
Hector gives Marta tablets to calm her and stop her hallucinations. When Marta don't take her tablets her behaviour becomes erratic and she begins to see her husband in a sinister light.
Angela Risner
I really wanted to love this book. I adored Before I Go to Sleep, and this book was compared to that one, so I was excited to read it.

The book follow Marta, who is married to Hector and mother to Kylan. Marta has been medicated for some time for an unnamed mental issue (though one may guess she is bipolar at the very least.) Marta has decided that she doesn't want to take her pills anymore, though she fakes taking them in front of her husband. She begins to question her past, as she can't remem
Oct 14, 2013 Alena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This debut novel is brilliantly psychotic! Marta is a wife, an empty nester, definitely on the verge of some kind of psychological breakdown; but that is just the beginning of this dark, twisted, thriller.

The author (did I mention this is a debut?) does an incredible job of keeping the reader off balance. What's the truth? Can we trust Marta's perspective? Chapman strings us along, throwing clues/mysteries down slowly until the story and the action begin to spin uncontrollably, much like Ma
Liz Barnsley
Feb 09, 2014 Liz Barnsley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to the author and publisher for the lovely paperback copy.

I know what my husband would say: that I have too much time on my hands; that I need to keep myself busy. That I need to take my medication. Empty nest syndrome, he tells his friends at the pub, his mother. He’s always said I have a vivid imagination. Marta and Hector have been married for a long time – so long that she finds it difficult to remember her life before him.

So I have just this second finished this one and wanted to
Nov 19, 2012 Anne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How To Be A Good Wife will be published in January 2013. Emma Chapman wrote this novel whilst completing her Royal Holloway MA in Creative Writing, incredibly she is only 27 years old. I find this incredible because this debut novel is one of the most accomplished and clever pieces of writing that I've read for a long, long time.

Marta and Hector have been married for many years, they have a grown up son who recently moved to the city. Marta has always tried to be a good wife and took her instruc
Oct 21, 2013 Bames rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

The book is written in the point of view of Marta, a housewife who has been married for a long time to Hector. They have a son, Kylan, who has just moved out of their home a few months back. Marta is having a tough time dealing with the fact that she no longer has anyone to lavish her attention on at home.

Her mother-in-law, Matilda, gave her a book on her wedding day, entitled How to Be a Good Wife a
Annabel Smith
This is a sneaky little book. It starts out as a story that feels familiar - a woman (Marta) questioning her marriage as her son leaves the nest and the dynamic at home changes permanently. Gradually it emerges that Marta has a history of mental health issues that seem to be re-surfacing and another layer is added to the story. Then...BOOM! Part way through the book, a little portal into something absolutely unexpected opens, and the rest of the novel is an exciting psychological thriller that k ...more
3.5 stars

Took awhile to get into, but holy crap THAT ENDING!! @_____@

I'm utterly surprised none of my friends on here have to on their TBR list or have read it. Ya, I wasn't sure if I wanted to actually read this just because of the title alone, but it's not what you think.

I highly recommend!
In an unknown village in an unknown Scandinavian country, Marta experiences the pressures of empty-nest syndrome and a future with nothing but caring for her house and her husband to fill up her time. In a fit of pique at the loss of her son and tired of Hector treating her like the fragile china dolls she loves, she opts to stop taking the very same medication she needs to keep her functional. As she starts remembering bits and pieces of her past and is visited by the blonde girl, she realizes ...more
Natalie Richards
3.5 stars.. I enjoyed this book but a lower rating because of the ending, which I found disappointing.
Jan 13, 2013 Marleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received my copy from Pan Macmillan through Nudge.

Marta and Hector have been married for years. For so long, in fact, that Marta doesn’t seem to have any memories of her life before her wedding. For over twenty years Marta’s main focus in life has been her husband, her son and the house they live in. And for all those years she has tried to live her life according to a book her mother in law gave her when she married Hector; a book titled “How to be a Good Wife”.

“Remember, always be bright and
Nov 20, 2013 Christine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
Marta has never been completely well but her husband, Hector, has always been there to take care of her. He makes sure she takes her medications. He makes sure she gets her rest. He makes sure she doesn’t smoke. He makes sure she has enough to do to keep her at home. Having been given a copy of “How To Be A Good Wife” as a wedding gift by her mother-in-law, Marta strives to be just that. Then, when their son leaves for university Marta discovers that as attentive as Hector is, he can no longer f ...more
Jul 11, 2013 Tina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books-i-own
Have you ever watched a movie and through most of it you are sitting there wondering what the hell is going on? Well, if you have, then you know the way I felt as I read How To Be A Good Wife by Emma Chapman. I spent most of the book trying to figure it out. And this doesn't in any way mean that it is a bad book, it just that it kept me guessing through most of it.

The book is about a woman named Marta. She has been with her husband Hector for so long that she feels she can not remember a time
Oct 14, 2013 Autumn rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, 2013
I received this book via netgalley.

Okay this book was a totally different read than I was expecting. Good, mysterious, kind of had you wondering what exactly was going on, but at the same time left you with more questions than answers at the end. I was really going to give this book a 3 but decided that since I found myself intrigued with the story that I would give it a 4 star rating.

You are reading from Marta's p.o.v. within the story. She was or at least attempted to be a good wife to her hu
Lyn (Readinghearts)
Aug 01, 2013 Lyn (Readinghearts) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who like thought provoking reading.
Recommended to Lyn (Readinghearts) by: St. Martin's publishing through Netgalley
Emma Chapman's debut novel "How to be a Good Wife" is a well written, compelling read with many layers, all of which revolve around the main character, Marta. Marta has been married to Hector for a long time. In fact, all of her adult life has been spent catering to him, their marriage, and their son Kylan. Now with Hector becoming distant and Kylan living in the city with his girlfriend, she has a lot of time on her own. But time on her own is not what Marta wants or needs.

As the book unfolds,
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Emma Chapman was born in 1985 and grew up in Manchester. She studied English Literature at Edinburgh University, followed by a Masters in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. After university, she travelled in Scandinavia, and she currently lives in Perth, Western Australia. How To Be A Good Wife is Emma's first novel.
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“waiting for the little moments of realization to fall about the room like feathers.” 1 likes
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