The Wife
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The Wife

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  2,505 ratings  ·  423 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, Joseph C...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published April 13th 2004 by Scribner (first published March 25th 2003)
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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
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...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
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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...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...more
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
Karen C.
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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...more
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...more
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.
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...more
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
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...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
Eric Klee
THE WIFE opens with Joe, a celebrated writer, and his wife Joan flying to Finland so he can accept an award in literature. It is during the flight that Joan decides to leave her husband of many, many years. "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." What drew me to novel was this first line. You can usually tell a lot about a book by the line with whic...more
A solid 3.5...I really liked so many things about this book, but it's not one that will stay with me, at least I don't think so. An interesting portrait of a talented young co-ed who marries her not-so-talented Smith professor turned famous novelist (take a wild guess how that comes to be...) in the 1950s and the life she chooses/accepts while attached to him. Wolitzer is witty, intuitive and can really put a sentence together; I loved the structure of the novel (it takes place on a trip to Hels...more
4.5 stars. I loved this book.

The plot moved quickly and I felt sympathy for the main character Joan Castleman from the first page. I also felt like the book offered a few words of warning. Right away we know that Joan has fallen into a sad state of apathy and acceptance and want to know how she plans to remedy the situation. Several instances that made me nod my head were watching Joan judge other women, whether they were housewives, young hotties, or female writers. In each observation I was e...more
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...more
Christina Hager
Even though this is an earlier work of Wolitzer, I enjoyed it more than her most recent book (the interestings). I found this book to be more self-contained-- the plot was much more streamlined. the Interesting was certainly full of "interesting" characters, and yet I found myself wanting to know more about the secondary characters than the main characters. I found the narrator of the interestings most annoying and frustrating. Even though this book has a similar viewpoint , and in a way, the ch...more
Mike Lindgren
This sly, acerbic novella about a woman who drops out of Smith College circa 1958 to marry a rising young bohemian novelist has genuine bite and wit. Wolitzer's portrayal of the long twilight of a marriage lived in the spotlight moves on vivid, wonderfully efficient prose that sketches the dullness and egotism of the literary life with Flaubertian elan. What sets this book apart from other inside-baseball tales of its ilk, I think, is its genuine, unforced, and deeply tonic rage at the inequitie...more
Kristin Lee Williams
Meg Wolitzer is an excellent writer. I love the way she builds a story, I love the way she uses words. From that point of view, I liked this book very much.

On the other hand, I'm so tired of the housewife in the shadow of her successful husband story-line. And even the twist toward the end of this book doesn't take away from the fact that this is the story here. So, in this case the wife purposefully forgoes her own talents and her own voice for her husband and her husband treats her like crap t...more
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erin cosens
"I'm not a bad see, I'm not actually much of a person yet at all." (71)

"The Wife" is about insufferable love and convincing oneself that such is a fact of life we must learn to tolerate. The realization that this is not true and that it is never too late or too selfish to walk away from a disappointing commitment is at the heart of this novel. Men are finger-pointed a lot throughout this book, but it comes off more as a signal of the historical moment this book was written about and...more
Adele Stratton
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Teeny Katt
"Everyone needs a wife; even WIVES need wives. Wives tend, they hover. Their ears are twin sensitive instruments, satellites picking up the slightest scrap 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 i...more
Olivia Morgan
This is a fantastic read and it's one of those novels that I couldn't put down after I started it. Meg Wolitzer does a great job of hooking the reader from page one and keeping the reader hooked throughout the entire novel. Her unique use of metaphoric language is both surprising and, at times, humorous. Her use of humor is also very unique because it’s dry, cynical, and quite dark at times. These things definitely contribute to the darker theme of the novel, with is both serious and emotional....more
2.5 stars, rounding up to 3

Joan is an unhappy wife, who, we learn in the opening sentences, has decided to leave Joe, her husband of 40+ years. They are winging their way to Finland where Joe will accept the Helsinki Prize, a (fictional) prestigious prize for literature. What follows is a post-mortem of their failed marriage.

In the 1950’s Joe was working as a university professor and writing, somewhat unsuccessfully, on the side, and Joan was one of his students. He and Joan began an affair and...more
This book was a 4 - for me - the writing was superb, so couldn't go to a 3. A lot of people have noted the un-likability of the main characters. From the beginning of the book, I was nearly overwhelmed by the anger of the wife, so the ending wasn't a surprise to me. Her sublimated envy was a palpable third main character. I thought the overall view of men, women, and marriage was dark; we didn't see an example of a good marriage touch Joan's life - even as a couple she could despise or revile fo...more
This would have earned four stars (really liked), but for the ending, which didn't really ring true. It just wasn’t up to the very high standard of all that I’d enjoyed hitherto – it felt like a cop out…

But, as this is high class Chic Lit (only read for research purposes) you should probably ignore me! Nevertheless this is a well observed, funny book that makes me very thankful indeed that I wasn't a wife in the 1950s.
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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 The Ten-Year Nap The Uncoupling The Position The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman

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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.”
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