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The Wife

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  24,184 ratings  ·  2,960 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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Angela Blech. No comeuppance, no rising above the circumstances, just ick..
june3 I agree with Marcie.
There are very few movies that can hold a candle to the depth and power of the original book. The Wife is not very long, and then…more
I agree with Marcie.
There are very few movies that can hold a candle to the depth and power of the original book. The Wife is not very long, and then you can read some of Meg Wolitzer's other books. My favorite is "The Interestings."(less)

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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  24,184 ratings  ·  2,960 reviews

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Aliki Barnstone
Nov 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 09, 2018 rated it liked it
A good written novel, a story of wrong compromises and sacrifices at life
the narrator, Joan the wife, has been married to successful author Joseph Castleman for over forty years, they were traveling where Joseph will receive a major literary award, but she has finally decided to leave him
the story of the Castleman couple is told in a series of flashbacks
the begining of their relationships in the mid 50s, Joe's success and fame, their children, and while Joan was trying to be a supportive wife, J

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Contemporary + Literary Fiction

Joan Castleman is the wife of a famous novelist Joe Castleman. There is a secret that they have kept for a long time! During their visit to Finland where Joe is about to receive the prestigious international award, The Helsinki Prize, to honor his career, Joan feels it is time for her to confront her husband and it is time to stop sacrificing herself and her life for the sake of her husband and this marriage!

Book Structure:
The book is
May 16, 2019 rated it liked it
3+ stars

The Wife is an interesting commentary on a forty-year marriage. Joe Castleman is a writer of little talent married to Joan, a gifted writer. It is her talent that makes him famous. He gets the credit, feeding his huge ego; she gets to write without facing the difficulties of competing in the literary politics dominating by men.

The humor and keen observations are right on. The book makes you think about what we give and take in a marriage. The Castleman's marriage begins in the '50s. Woul
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, audiobook
This is a book where I'd already seen the movie and this is my first book by Wolitzer.

Joan and Joe Castleman are on their way to Helsinki for Joe to receive a highly regarded literary award when everything falls apart and we hear the story of a marriage.

The writing in this novel is just beautiful and I savored over the language Wolitzer uses to tell us the mundane and the crazy in this marriage. Not everything is as it seems (is it ever?) and I loved watching this one unwind. Even though, I alr
Patricia Williams
This book was good and interesting but to me, not great. I enjoyed the read and had this book on my "want to read list" for a while but when I saw that it was being made into a movie with Glen Close as the star, I moved it up on my list. I think Glen Close will be perfect in this role. This was a story about a husband and wife where the husband was a famous author. The reviews of the book says it had a shocking ending but I had already figure it out because I've read so much about Zelda and Scot ...more
♥ Sandi ❣
3.75 stars

Having never read Meg Wolitzer before I was pleasantly surprised. Her mastery of characters is rich and fulfilling. This story, based mostly on two people, progresses slowly in the beginning, like trying to climb a smooth boulder, then turns into something far more subtle and powerful. This novel covers over forty years of a marriage - one, you may say was one-sided. But after a series of disclosures, the novel ends with it's own unique surprise, buoyed by a profound balancing act, mak
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the flight to Finland for her husband to collect the revered Helsinski Prize for literature, 64-year-old Joan Castleman reflects on the sacrifices and choices she made of her life. In 1956, Joan was a student at Smith College enrolled in Joseph Castleman's Elements of Creative Writing. Joe loved "Dickens, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Joyce" and longed to be a successful writer. At a reading, a woman novelist told Joan that but for a couple of exceptions, writing is a man's world, there is a so ...more
Melissa Crytzer Fry
***UPDATE: I saw the movie on Monday and loved it. Thought it was so interesting to see the decisions made by the screen writers regarding what themes to beef up, which aspects of the characters' personalities to highlight or to soften. And even some of the bigger details were changed completely. Glenn Close deserves the accolades she is getting for this performance.***

I picked this book for our book club, as I thought it would be so much fun to have a corresponding “go to the movies night” to c
Nicole Bonia
May 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
“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
Oct 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-misc
3 stars - It was good.

What an odd, despondent little book. This was the first book I have read by Wolitzer and I was struck by her unique writing style - very candid and frank, yet at the same time ornate and flowery. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know, but it is the best way I can describe it. Her distinctive writing style is enough to make me want to pick up another book by her. This particular story, however, became slow somewhere on the back 1/2, and the big "reveal" at the ending was obvious t
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was an amazing read! At first, I baulked at the wife's cynicism, and wondered about coming back to this book at another time, however, I was able to make the adjustment and settled in for an amazing listening experience! This is not an escapist read, rather, it's more of what I would I consider realistic fiction, and it hit home on occasion. Time and again the incisive writing enthralled me and I would rush to try to capture what I had just heard. I even sent texts to myself if I happened t ...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
I didn’t love this the way that I expected to, given the breathlessness that has seemed to surround it. The end was certainly, as advertised, pretty compelling and something I wrestled with for awhile before I could drift off to sleep last night. But I did not love the writing in any consistent way. For every excellent line there were three heavy handed and overwrought metaphors and insights that my kindle tells me many people highlighted but none of which struck me as especially memorable. The ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-2018
I'm in love with this author's writing. I can't wait to read more of her work. The writing deserves 5 stars. I didn't love where the story went at the end though, so I'm going with 4 stars. Instead of going into the plot, I'm going to leave a quote that says so much about this story.

"Joe once told me he felt a little sorry for women, who only got husbands. Husbands tried to help by giving answers, being logical, stubbornly applying force as though it were a glue gun. Or else they didn't try to h
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I saw the excellent movie starring Glenn Close. It faithfully follows the book, so I knew what was coming. Still, I enjoyed reading the protagonist's wry, humorous, and often wistful voice. The novel uses a great premise that fits the 1950s so well. The pace moves quickly, a good thing. The husband is not a very sympathetic character while the wife certainly is. I kept wanting her to be more assertive. All in all, I liked reading it, and I enjoyed the movie version, too--a double treat. ...more
Mar 19, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
When I got to the 'surprise' ending, I wish the characters were in the room with me so I could throw the book at them. ...more
Tanja Berg
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
I added some kilometers to today’s run so that I’d be able to finish this audiobook. It had me hooked from the start with its scathing tone. It’s about what building a marriage on lies can do to you. The level of bitterness is among the highest I’ve encountered in a book. It’s fantastic, astute, true and on point.
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
One of the most accurate portrayals of marriage I've read. And my favorite line: "Everyone needs a wife. Wives need wives." That really resonated with me. So true! ...more
Vicente Ambou
Sep 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Behind every great man there stands a woman." It is a sentence that is usually said about big male characters in society and history. And this is the sentence that seems to be floating on this American author's novel, although her, the author ("The Wolitzer", we could call her), allows that sentence to float, but only to break it, shattering into little pieces against the floor, just for the sake of an opposite corollary. And this the topic of this long contemporary love/hate story between Joan ...more
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it
"In her [daughter's] worldview, bad marriages were simply terminated, like unwanted pregnancies. She knew nothing of this subculture of women who stayed, women who couldn't logically explain their allegiances, who held tight because it was the only thing they felt most comfortable doing, the thing they actually liked. She didn't understand the luxury of the familiar, the known: the same hump of back poking up under the cover in bed, the hair tufting in the ear. The husband. A figure you never st ...more
Sep 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
I finished The Wife by Meg Wolitzer. I chose this book as a "twofer"- it works for Author of the Month and Off The Shelf, Books on the cover for my Goodreads Book Club.

Earlier this week I read LIFE AFTER LIFE by Kate Atkinson, so I was surprised and excited to read the following quote in THE WIFE:-
"'How can I just have this one life?' I used to ask my mother incredulously when I was twelve and sat at the dining room table in our apartment..."
There were no more surprises or excitement.

I underst
Aug 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Meg Wolitzer’s story, about a husband and wife whose marriage has spanned the 1950’s to present day, lifts the veil and reveals the drama surrounding Joan and Joe Castleman. She, a college student, decides that he, her professor, is THE ONE and this begins their story.

The writing was good, the chapters sometimes too descriptively long, and I felt the author told the story she wanted to tell.

The characters, I despised. They both sold their souls and reaped their due.

This book is amazing. Wolitzer perfectly captures the voice of a wife who has gone bitter and is full of some regrets on how she lived her life. The main character, Joan Castleman is flying to Finland with her husband, Joseph "Joe" Castleman. Joe has won the Helsinki for her works in literature. Joan starts to think back to when she first met Joe and also provides insight into how he is based on the women who raised him. The back and forth to the past and present really works and you start to ge ...more
William Cook
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read this book on the strength of Ginger Bensman's review. In order to do the novel justice, I'll divide my review into two parts, style and content.

First, style. Meg Wolitzer is a marvelous writer, capturing turns of phrase, metaphors, and similes that are striking in their ability to convey a unique vision of relationships and the world around her. I confess that many times I found myself saying, "I wish I could write like that!" Her acerbic wit often elevates her descriptions of a thoroughl
Jun 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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Putnam County Pub...: August Book Discussion 3 4 Aug 26, 2019 10:04AM  
August Book Discussion 1 4 Aug 01, 2019 06:35AM  
Screen & Page: The Wife 1 9 Jul 23, 2018 03:34PM  
Goodreads Librari...: New page count 1 17 Sep 11, 2017 03:10PM  

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Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times–bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, The Wife, and Sleepwalking. She is also the author of the young adult novel Belzhar. Wolitzer lives in New York City.

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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.” 21 likes
“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 the Stop & Shop, or the bath. They lose them on the way to greasing the path on which their husband and children will ride serenely through life.” 19 likes
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