*I received this as an ARC from the publisher through Goodreads.
There's a lot to like about The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress: Jazz Age/'Boardwalk...more*I received this as an ARC from the publisher through Goodreads.
There's a lot to like about The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress: Jazz Age/'Boardwalk Empire' excess, a real life unsolved whodunit, three very different women fighting their way up to their version of the American dream. Stella (the wife), Maria (the maid), and Ritzi (the mistress) are sympathetically written and I did feel drawn into their stories - even Stella, easily the most enigmatic and distant of the three. Lawhon gives us a lot of the novel from Stella's perspective which makes sense since it's her husband who's missing and yet I left the book not feeling I still hardly knew her - which does appears to be by design - but I can see why other reviewers felt less invested in her as a result. Maria's story was especially compelling because hearing about the experiences of Spanish-speaking immigrants from this far back in the 20th century is somewhat unusual and her motivations often spring from having the most to lose as being the member of this titular trio lowest on the social scale. Ritzi has the standard "country girl comes to the big city to see her name in lights" arc, and arguably she's the one who grows the most throughout the story. It's the kind of book where everyone probably has a favorite woman and I'll be interested to see if people think each got the ending they deserved.
The only qualm I really have is I felt like the book needed to be longer to flesh out the multitude of competing interests that every character had that led them to the decisions that they were making, especially in light of Lawhon's decision to move the narrative forwards and backwards in time throughout the novel. We would be shown an episode where Character A would threaten/do something negative to Character B, and B would make enormous choices based on the interaction, but the scene would be so brief that it was sometimes difficult to believe it would push someone over the edge. And when the truth behind Judge Crater's disappearance is finally revealed, so much of the work that the characters involved do to that end is left out of the narrative or is only very obliquely mentioned that it felt like I missed a few chapters. While this would work wonderfully in the flashback of a heist movie to show you how it was all done, it's less successful in print form. That said, this a fast-moving read with enough charm to be worth your time.(less)
Ugh, this kills me because Ahab's Wife is easily one of my favorite books ever, literally. But this just pales in comparison. The Elizabeth portions a...moreUgh, this kills me because Ahab's Wife is easily one of my favorite books ever, literally. But this just pales in comparison. The Elizabeth portions are told with such a light touch by the character itself that I felt like all I did was skim over the waters of her life without truly feeling the depths. The Ryn portions arguably have more depth, but her story is arguably less interesting also. I appreciate the Mrs. Dalloway approach of her story, though I feel like Naslund should have just committed and made nothing spectacular happen with the day; the confrontation that wraps up her story felt tacked on and unnecessary. And I know it sounds incredibly pedantic, but there is a reference to Bernini's very famous sculpture of Apollo chasing the nymph Daphne that claims that the female subject is the goddess Diana. I'm sure it'll get fixed in a later printing, but for a novel so much about art, it's a rather surprising mistake that is all the more glaring since it is put in the mouth of Elizabeth Vigee-Le Brun.(less)