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The World's Wife

4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  2,724 Ratings  ·  237 Reviews
Be terrified.
It's you I love,
perfect man,
Greek God, my own;
but I know you'll go,
betray me, stray
from home.
So better by far for
me if you were stone.
--from "Medusa"

Stunningly original and haunting, the voices of Mrs. Midas, Queen Kong, and Frau Freud, to say nothing of the Devil's Wife herself, startle us with their wit, imagination, and incisiveness in this collecti
Paperback, 76 pages
Published April 9th 2001 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1999)
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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"These myths going round, these legends, fairytales, I'll put them straight."

While I was clearing out my wardrobe I was attacked by a falling lever-arch file and, after flicking through it, I found a copy of an A-Level essay that I wrote on this collection.

I immediately went to my bookshelf and dug out my heavily annotated (Phrases such as "Satirises the traditional views of women to represent them as holders of power" and "Men's violence is faced and outdone" somehow look more intelligent wh
Sophie Narey (Bookreview- aholic)
Dec 14, 2015 Sophie Narey (Bookreview- aholic) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
Author: Carol Ann Duffy
Published: 24/09/1999

Okay so I read this book for my gcse english exam and I absolutely loved it! I very rarely give a five star rating but this one definately deserves it, it is packed full of incredible poems. It is a book that has become a firm favourite of mine and one that I could read a million times. When I read this book and had to disect it and find out exactly what the poem was meaning, it pretty much blew my mind!
This book is full of the female version of myth'
May 27, 2012 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Teresa by: James Murphy
These are fun, clever, sly poems, reimagining fairy tales, Bible stories (one of my favorites was "Queen Herod"), myths, legends and even true stories, but all from a female point of view and in contemporary language.

Though I used the word 'fun,' a few really aren't. Some are too sad ("Mrs Quasimodo") or too touching ("Anne Hathaway") or too scathing ("Mrs Beast," the penultimate poem, states in no uncertain terms the reason for this collection) to be considered mere fun. And even the ones that
Aug 03, 2016 Kirsty rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I was so excited when I opened this most beautiful of books on Christmas morning. The entirety is so well presented, from its beautiful silver-foiled cover, to the fact that it comes complete with a contents page.

The blurb of The World’s Wife is so enticing: ‘That saying? “Behind every famous man…?” From Mrs Midas to Queen Kong, from Elvis’ twin sister to Pygmalion’s bride, they’re all here, in The World’s Wife. Witty and thought-provoking, this tongue-in-cheek, no-holds-barred look at the real
Jan 26, 2014 Zanna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Zanna by: Sally Bleasdale
Shelves: poetry, feminism
My favourite of her books.

Incisive and uncompromising, this diverse series of vignettes contains women of all stripes, vibrant vessels for Duffy's kaleidoscope of reflections on relations between women and men, the roles and experiences of wives and lovers. Her protagonists are everything but passive, and Duffy takes every view but the easy and obvious.
James Murphy
Jul 06, 2010 James Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book a few times because it's poetry that's fun while at the same time having a rich vein of truth running through it. What Carol Ann Duffy has done with The World's Wife is give voice to the unsung wives of famous husbands of history and literature. These wives have lived unappreciated and without credit in the shadows of their husbands until Duffy told their stories. Some of them we're familiar with--Eurydice, for instance, and Penelope. But it's the ones we've not given thought ...more
Darth Andrew
Back in 2012, I met Carol Ann Duffy in Manchester, after attending a poetry reading that her and a number of other poets read at, and then each taught a little class on how to write, read, and analyse poems. It was an amazing day. She read a few of the poems from this book and I was amazed. I went home and bought this and then when it arrived, put it on my bookshelf. There it sat for 2 whole years, until I picked it up tonight to read, and I really wish I hadn't left it so long!

The poems are wit
J.G. Keely
Mar 23, 2009 J.G. Keely rated it it was ok
This was the topic of my senior thesis (specifically the poem 'Medusa'), and also my most recent attempt at finding something revolutionary, interesting, or worthwhile in modern poetry. The dadaists and beat poets were intent on wresting poetry from the jaws of tradition. By popularizing poetry, they turned poetry into another pointless, populist act.

By enshrining the 'personal experience' as the sole qualifier of poetic worth, they ensured that every hack poet will feel justified in sharing the
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 10, 2014 Jenny (Reading Envy) rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Frieda Hughes, 5 Books Blog
Shelves: poetry, read2014
I first encountered a mention of this book of poems when Frieda Hughes selected five books of poetry on the Five site.

While it is easily seen as a writing exercise, taking characters in literature, mythology, and pop culture and flip them on their ear by writing about their wives, the poet does it brilliantly. Some poems are sad (Mrs. Lazarus), some are triumphant (Little Red-Cap), and they vary in style and tone. So fun to read, highly recommended.
Michelle (Fluttering Butterflies)
Clever and fun. A poetry collection I will definitely return to.
Jul 28, 2011 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up a free copy of this in New Beacon Books – there was a stack of them left over from World Book Night earlier this year.

It’s a collection of poems all on the same theme of overturning male-centred history, literature and myth, and looking at familiar stories from the neglected wife’s perspective. So, for example, we have Mrs Aesop tiring of her husband’s constant boring fables, and Delilah explaining why she cut off Samson’s hair (he’d complained to her that he didn’t know what it was
Jun 17, 2015 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection, first published in 1999 was Carol Ann Duffy’s first themed collection. In these wonderful poems Carol Ann Duffy takes traditional stories, tales of historical figures and myths which traditionally focus on a male character or perspective. Turning these stories on their head then, we see them from the perspective of the invisible women behind those men.

Full review:
Not only is the way these women - whether they're made up or historically accurate - sass and judge their husbands all kinds of amazing, this collection is pretty perfect on a formal level as well. Anne Hathaway talks in sonnet form, while the stories of the heroines of ancient Greek mythology and literature, such as Circe and Penelope, take on the form of longer, narrative poems. The relationship between form and content gives the poems in question the air of subtle parody, and at the same time ...more
Jan 12, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing
These are Duffy's best poems, and she takes this one trick pony and turns it into a poetic calvary battalion. The trick is that each poem is based on either the wife of a historical or fictional character, or a woman from history. The voices she creates are so vivid, and her use of language is witty and hits like a hammer every time.
My favorites are "Mrs. Lazarus", "Mrs. Quasimodo", "The Devil's Wife", "Penelope", "Eurydice" and "Medusa". Mind-blowing stuff that makes us casual poets feel comple
Jan 27, 2014 Robert added it
Shelves: poetry
Over-all this collection was a slight disappointment. It opens excellently with a poem dense with imagery, a radical re-imagining of the Red Riding-hood story, a complex and thought-provoking piece. Then nothing else in the book matches it, which is unfortunate, since the concept is so good.


See the complete review here:
Feb 20, 2015 Suze rated it it was amazing
Behind most of the important men in the history of literature there must have been great women. There's Queen Herod, Pilate's Wife, Mrs Darwin, Queen Kong, etc. All of these women have their own story to tell.

Carol Ann Duffy has written such beautiful poems about the women behind famous men. I loved the way she plays with words. She can mold them, so they express exactly what she wants to say and I think that's a rare gift. She has a beautiful style. The poems are strong, powerful and impressiv
Ned Gill
Jun 24, 2016 Ned Gill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faves, poetry
Incredibly well written females, all with a strong sense of self. A cracking good read with beautiful and snarky (typical Duffy) language
Sep 13, 2013 Seonaid rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I came to this collection with high expectations and enthusiasm, but it's a bit hit and miss, to be honest. Some of the poems certainly raise a smile (Mrs Darwin and Mrs Faust were two of my favourites); others are raw and painful. The voice of the deformed Mrs Quasimodo, rejected by her husband for the unattainable 'pin up gypsy/posing with the tourists in the square', drips with misery until she attains the ultimate revenge: 'A ladder. Heavy tools. A steady hand./And me, alone all night up the ...more
Dec 13, 2015 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I didn't love every single one of them but my favourites are for life. This is a certain re-read and must for all. I wish I could just read them out loud in the square of the world with Huge Speakers so that no one can say that these female perspectives haven't cross their mind at least once. Inventive, funny, insightful, personal and universal at the same time. That's how I would summarise The World's Wife.
Jul 16, 2016 Sseonana rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, poetry
Strong collection. Tabbed Mrs Midas, Mrs Tiresias, Queen Kong, Salome and Mrs Beast before giving up and wasting my tabs marking favourites. Too many to single out
Full review at Smoke & Mirrors:

I would not have read this except that The Literary Wives online book club (see us on Facebook) selected it as our August 2014 read. I was fascinated by Duffy's very creative and intense use of words, but overall, this was certainly not a favorite read for me. I felt it to be a bit too crude and cruel/violent, for my liking. That aside, the poems are powerful and certainly made a very strong impression me. See the more c
Jun 29, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing
A playful but poignant punch in the gut to the male-centered world of history and mythology.
Aug 26, 2016 Sophie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sophie by: Leanne
I didn't hate this collection of poetry but I didn't love any of the poems either. I am intrigued by Duffy's style of poetry and do want to read more of her works but this one wasn't for me.
Jan 07, 2016 Frances rated it did not like it
It seriously pains me to write such a review of Carol Ann Duffy, author of some of the most accessible and plain beautiful poetry the English language has seen for a while. The problem: her brand of feminism.

If you're the sort of woman who would wear a 'men are bastards' t-shirt, this collection is for you. I'm afraid I was disappointed to find her twistings of myth to be nothing short of nauseating. Her petty, thoroughly victimized women, finger pointing at the hubby, relaying what it was 'rea
I remember in Year 8 when our English teacher read us her favourite poem. Written by Carol Ann Duffy, it was about Anne Hathaway and the detail in Shakespeare's will leaving her the "second-best bed". I was probably too young to understand the beautiful sonnet talking of the way they loved each other in the second-best bed: "Some nights I dreamed he’d written me, the bed / a page beneath his writer’s hands", while "In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on, / dribbling their prose." Howeve ...more
May 26, 2014 Freya rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This collection of poetry is one of the most wonderful, striking and thoughtful works I have read. Duffy gives voices to some of the unheard wives of male characters from fairytales, history, religion or mythology, such as, Mrs. Faust, Anne Hathaway, Frau Freud and Mrs. Beast. Her female voices show twists in the original plots of fairytales or myths, like "Little Red Cap" kills the wolf herself, Faust tricks the Devil and Mrs Beast is a powerful, strong lesbian character, while the Beast is ugl ...more
Apr 24, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
Clever! I found myself smiling the whole way through this slim book of poems. The idea is genius, and the execution is masterful.
Sean the Bookonaut
It’s an interesting way to theme a poetry collection; to look at a number of famous wives/sisters of history and myth and rework those stories from their perspective. I commented to friends that The World’s Wife reminded me of Fablecroft’s Cranky Ladies of History but in poetic form.

The World’s Wife is refreshing, the concept paired with Duffy’s wit, rhythm and rhyme makes for a very enjoyable and at times educational collection. I find the majority of Duffy’s work uplifting and vibrant even whe

Poetry from the perspective of wives of famous characters that is clever, but is also incredibly moving at points. I felt a range of minute emotions while reading this and appreciated the emotional breadth of the collection, even with the unifying theme. Some of these are heartbreaking, some are tongue-in-cheek. A great mix!

My personal favorites were:
Little Red Cap
Mrs. Midas
Mrs. Aesop
Mrs. Darwin
Anne Hathaway
Queen Kong
Mrs. Rip Van Winkle
Frau Freud
Elvis's Twin Sister
Mrs Beast

The cover and the font
I haven't read many poetry collections, but this was recommended by Jen Campbell (and she certainly did it justice in her praise!)

This is a collection of poems that outline, illuminate, retell, reimagine classic stories - from the Hunchback of Notre Dame to Sigmund Freud. Some are hilarious little stories (almost limericks), others are dark and shocking stories. Some are just a few lines, others go for pages.

I think it is such a rich and varied collection that it doesn't feel like a collection o
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Dame Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, FRSL is a Scottish poet and playwright. She is Professor of Contemporary Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain's Poet Laureate in May 2009.

She is the first woman, the first Scot, and the first openly LGBT person to hold the position.

Her collections include Standing Female Nude (1985), winner of a Scottish Arts Council Award; Selling Manh
More about Carol Ann Duffy...

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Anne Hathaway

The bed we loved in was a spinning world
of forests, castles, torchlight, clifftops, seas
where we would dive for pearls. My lover’s words
were shooting stars which fell to earth as kisses
on these lips; my body now a softer rhyme
to his, now echo, assonance; his touch
a verb dancing in the centre of a noun.
Some nights, I dreamed he’d written me, the bed
a page beneath his writer’s hands. Romance
and drama played by touch, by scent, by taste.
In the other bed, the best, our guests dozed on,
dribbling their prose. My living laughing love -
I hold him in the casket of my widow’s head
as he held me upon that next best bed.”
“Mrs Icarus

I'm not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock,
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he's a total, utter, absolute, Grade A pillock.”
More quotes…