K's Reviews > Good Wife

Good Wife by Elizabeth Buchan
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Apr 25, 09

bookshelves: couldntfinish, chicklit

Meh. I give the author credit for trying to be a little deep, but somehow she didn't succeed. The plot felt clicheed and predictable to me, simply a longer version of its blurb, with characters who didn't grab me and not much else to offer.

Brief summary (if you read this paragraph, you've basically read the book): Fanny, forty-something and facing the empty nest as her beloved college-aged daughter departs for Australia, is beginning to reevaluate her life of self-sacrifice on the altar of her husband's political career. She has worked hard to be the perfect politician's wife, from painful regular appointments to dye her eyelashes so her mascara won't run in the pictures, to giving up her own career, to dealing with her husband's public and standing in for him periodically, to forgiving her husband's one-time dalliance, to taking in her husband's alcoholic sister to live with them. As the book proceeds, Fanny is growing increasingly irritated with the demands of her Stepford wife role, not to mention with her husband himself and with her intrusive and high-maintenance live-in alcoholic sister-in-law. About halfway through the book, her beloved father's death sends her into a tailspin. She departs for her father's native Italy, where she encounters her pre-husband beau who is still attractive and amorous, and she is faced with the decision of whether or not to return to the husband who has taken her for granted all these years.

The book was slow and annoying to begin with. Brief spates of dialogue would be interrupted by paragraphs of explanation of who the people were and what their relationship was. The following is not a direct quote, but this is what it read like:

"Can you please pass the butter, Sacha?" I asked.
Sacha was my nephew, 23 years old. He was visiting from...and had lived with us since...He was in university...
"Sure," said Sacha. He turned to Chloe and asked...
Chloe was...

Although I understood why the author was doing this (it was really too obvious, which I think is what got to me), I've read books which were much more successful at both involving me in the story and clarifying the roles of the characters without getting on my nerves. It was a bad start, and I only got less interested as I read on.

The idea of tracing a woman's trajectory from blissful, blind love to questioning her self-sacrifice to mid-life crisis has been done before, but it still has potential. Unfortunately, although this book tried, it didn't make it. Buchan wanted to make Fanny's life and psyche complicated and, I guess, a little less clicheed -- a mother who abandoned her as a child with whom she still has a relationship, the ambivalence re. the alcoholic live-in sister-in-law whom Fanny would like to kick out of the house but can't, quite -- but somehow, despite these various subplots and complications, I found Fanny and her struggles kind of boring and nothing else in the book compensated.

It did make me wonder why some books manage to be deep or otherwise engaging and some books just don't. I have read books with plots that were similarly typical, but I didn't get as bored. Maybe I liked the characters more, maybe the twists in the circumstances were more interesting or better developed, maybe the writing was better. I don't know what it was, exactly, but whatever it was, this book didn't have it.
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Reading Progress

04/23/2009 page 2
0.5% "Someone lent this to me. Looks kind of junky, but I could use something light."

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