Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Wife

Rate this book
"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 Castleman, is "one of those men who own the world...who has no idea how to take care of himself or anyone else, and who derives much of his style from the Dylan Thomas Handbook of Personal Hygiene and Etiquette." He is also one of America's preeminent novelists, about to receive a prestigious international award to honor his accomplishments, and Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, has finally decided to stop.

From this gripping opening, Wolitzer flashes back fifty years to 1950s Smith College and Greenwich Village -- the beginning of the Castleman relationship -- and follows the course of the famous marriage that has brought them to this breaking point, culminating in a shocking ending that outs a carefully kept secret.

Wolitzer's most important and ambitious book to date, The Wife is a wise, sharp-eyed, compulsively readable story about a woman forced to confront the sacrifices she's made in order to achieve the life she thought she wanted. But it's also an unusually candid look at the choices all men and women make for themselves, in marriage, work, and life. With her skillful storytelling and pitch-perfect observations, Wolitzer invites intriguing questions about the nature of partnership and the precarious position of an ambitious woman in a man's world.

219 pages, Paperback

First published March 25, 2003

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Meg Wolitzer

46 books2,755 followers
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.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
5,232 (19%)
4 stars
11,251 (41%)
3 stars
8,145 (30%)
2 stars
2,022 (7%)
1 star
464 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,229 reviews
Profile Image for Aliki Barnstone.
Author 20 books37 followers
June 12, 2013
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 manages to be compassionate and wickedly (wonderfully) satirical at the same time.
45 reviews4 followers
July 28, 2009
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 on which their husband and children will ride serenely through life." (p 183) This passage really spoke to me.
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,001 reviews1,290 followers
July 15, 2022
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, Joe was vain, betrayer and self centered
and gradually the truth about his writings begins to unfold
Wolitzer mentioned some points about gender writing inequalities at the 50s when male dominated the world of writing and publishing
how a woman at that generation didn’t feel that she could reach for what she want, as if it's much easier to stand behind a man and watch him achieve great things than to achieve it for herselve
frankly both characters are unlikable, but they're exist at reality
away from the plot, and if you're a woman you will find yourself asking, why Joan chose to bear forty years with a philanderer?
but eventually the novel is good and the writing style is beautiful
Profile Image for Constantine.
809 reviews129 followers
February 21, 2022

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 around 220 pages. There are seven chapters in total with moderate lengths. The whole story is told from the wife's perspective. I feel there was no proper balance between the narration and the dialogue. There were many time frame jumps within the same paragraphs.

“I’ve always had a fear of being small and ordinary. “How can I just have this one life?”

My Thoughts:
This book has lots of drama. Now whether the drama is necessary or unnecessary that will all depend on your taste and likings. The reader gets to know Joan's life from her own perspective. How she got involved with Joe, married him, and then settled for such a life. At the beginning of the book, the reader will wonder why Joan is feeling this way but she will keep remembering things in her narration that will give you an idea of why she feels used.

I was not very amused by the writing style. There was no proper balance between the narration and the dialogues. Though the book is short, it felt exhausting because of this unbalance and also because of how there were many jumps back and forth between the present and past. At times I got confused about the time and the location of the events! I was not sure if they were happening now or happened before. To me, a properly structured book is very important to grab my attention and focus. The Wife lacked it.

“Writers need light. They always tell you this, as though they're parched, as though they're plants, as though the page they're working on would look completely different with a southern exposure.”

I feel the two main characters, Joe and Joan were the only two characters in this book that were defined. The secondary characters had not much importance. As a reader, I kept wondering why did Joan remain in this toxic relationship and did not mind being used in such a way. Her own excuses did not convince me. She took too long to come to the decision to put a stop to it. And when she did so it was too late already. I was expecting this ending, it was no surprise to me and part of me thinks that Joan did the right thing at the end to just remain silent about it and tell Nathaniel that what he was thinking was not true!

The Wife is a good book, it is not a perfect one. The premise itself has been used many times in different mediums. It sounded to me a lot like the true story of the life of American artist Margaret Keane who was used by her husband the same way. There is even a movie adaptation of that one called Big Eyes starring Amy Adams. The Wife is more subtle though. I have not watched the movie adaptation yet but will do so now after I finished reading the book. I am going with 3.5 stars out of 5.0

“Because as you get older, life sort of eats away at you like battery acid, and all the things you once loved are suddenly harder to find. And when you do find them, you don’t have time to enjoy them anymore, you know?”
Profile Image for Barbara.
268 reviews206 followers
May 16, 2019
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. Would their marriage play out differently now?

This is a fast read and well worth the time.

"Love was easy. Attention was something else entirely."

"...He seemed to want to lick and swallow my talent, my perceptiveness, whatever it was he thought I had..."

"And now he was old, with a humbling prosthetic heterograft porcine valve (h0wever you slice it, it's just pig meat) stuck like a clove into his heart, and pig memories somehow looped into his brain: happy images of rooting around among old nectarines and tennis shoes."
Profile Image for Britany.
951 reviews413 followers
August 17, 2019
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 already knew what was coming from the movie, it was a delight to get the full story and all the colored in details. I loved the nuances the author added in to show the challenges in a relationship and the tiny details that makes a simple person unique. The twisting details broke my heart and I was satiated when I reached the end and those final sentences led to the finale of this story of a marriage.

Looking forward to picking up more by Wolitzer. Any suggestions where to go next?
Profile Image for Patricia Williams.
564 reviews121 followers
July 12, 2018
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 Scott Fitzgerald. I won't say any more to give it away but I was not surprised at all at the ending, had been predicting it about half way through the book. Enjoyable read especially if you want to read about a woman who wants to be a strong woman.
Profile Image for ♥ Sandi ❣	.
1,246 reviews1 follower
September 18, 2018
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, making this a love story of understanding and compassion.
Profile Image for Deborah.
731 reviews46 followers
October 21, 2019
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-called "conspiracy to keep the women's voices hushed and tiny and the men's voices loud." She urged Joan not to pursue her literary talent but find another way. Joan and Joe become embroiled in an affair that destroys his marriage causing them to flee the campus and begin a life together. Joe pursued writing, and his book catapulted him into success. "The Walnut had been written in the kind of first-novel, foaming fever that never repeats itself, no matter how hard a writer tries to re-create the recipe itself, the sleepless jangle, the effluvium of words." "The lure of The Walnut was just too strong, the siren song of this undiscovered writer. A virgin."

Joe had an appetite for life and sex, and reveled in the arrogance, recognition, and celebration of a successful writer. Joan was the good wife, his eyes and ears and went everywhere with him to parties and for research observing and asking questions. "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." Joan is unhappy, angry, tired of Joe's affairs and narcissism, and is ready to step outside her husband's shadow.

This is not a quick read but written at a measured pace both economically and descriptively. The Castlemans and Joan's emotions and views are realistic. I kept picturing Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce, who were excellent in their roles in the movie. However, as usual this book while similar is different in many aspects from the movie. Neither disappoints.
Profile Image for Teresa.
1,492 reviews
February 24, 2019
A Mulher que odeia as mulheres...

Para justificar o subtítulo, algumas das frases deste romance, cuja narradora é uma mulher de sessenta e quatro anos, culta e inteligente:
1. Flannery O'Connor é um génio mas também "é uma aberração, tão visionária e devotamente cat��lica e austera." (página 65)
Carson McCullers é uma "pequena criatura andrógina que parece um esquilo." (página 65)
Mary McCarthy, "com a sua prosa extraordinária, os malares arquitetónicos, o cabelo apanhado sobre um longuíssimo pescoço maneirista e as diversas ligações públicas que tinha com homens de alto gabarito. A última parte parecia essencial; sem essas ligações, teria sido demasiado livre, demasiado exótica, menos atraente." (página 135)
2. A mulher do professor "não era bonita; era uma mulher pequena e extenuada, cabelo castanho com um corte arrapazado e uns olhos esquivos. O que seria que ele via nela? Imaginei o meu professor na cama com aquela mulherzinha nada glamorosa." (página 71)
3. A hospedeira se "se tivesse despido da cintura para cima para lhe oferecer um dos seios, enfiando-lhe o mamilo na boca com a autoridade de uma comandante da organização La Leche, ele teria aceitado sem fazer a mais pequena pergunta." (página 10)
isto logo após a descolagem, porque perto da aterragem
"até a assistente de bordo morena, que antes parecera tão sedutora a Joe, ostentava então o ar de uma prostituta cansada que só queria dar a noite por acabada." (página 26)
4. Um homem a comentar a obra de um escritor (que afinal é de uma escritora)
"Misturas todo esse feminismo, se é que queres chamar-lhe isso... se bem que a imagem que me provoca é a de fufas com motosserras." (página 30)
5. As gracinhas do menino com um QI ao nível da Família Glass de Salinger
"uma vez atormentou uma professora, dizendo-lhe que tinha um bigode à Hitler e que nenhum homem haveria de gostar dela. Ela tinha ficado com medo de que isso fosse verdade e faltara à escola durante uma semana." (página 112)

Conclusão: as mulheres referidas neste romance ou são feias, ou são putas, ou aberrações por serem católicas e austeras. Claro que a excepção é a narradora: bonita, inteligente, casou com o homem com que perdeu a virgindade e nunca lhe foi infiel (quando fez sexo em grupo, não conta porque foi uma "visita de estudo" para um novo romance e o esposo estava a ver).

Resumo desta porcaria, com todos os spoilers:
Na década de 50, uma estudante apaixona-se por um professor, porque ele leu numa aula "O Morto" de James Joyce. Um dia, o professor pede à aluna para tomar conta da bebé dele porque precisa de sair com a mulher e aí a moça aproveita para vasculhar as gavetas e analisar o diafragma da mulher do professor. Noutro dia, encontram-se na escola, ele põe-lhe as mãos nos ombros, beija-a e ela quase tem um orgasmo. Pouco tempo depois, ele pede-lhe para levar a passear o cão de um amigo, aparece lá em casa e vão-se deitar. Quando a mulher dele descobre a infidelidade, atira com uma noz à testa da rival, ele divorcia-se e foge com a aluna, que aproveitou para abandonar os estudos. Casam, têm três filhos e vivem juntos mais de quarenta anos. Ele torna-se um escritor famoso e ela uma esposa dedicada. São muito felizes até ao dia em que ela, numa viagem de avião para Helsínquia, onde o acompanha para receber um prémio literário, decide abandoná-lo e revelar um segredo: ele não escreve porra nenhuma! Foi ela que, durante anos, lhe escreveu os romances, pelos quais ele até recebeu um Pulitzer. Ora, quando ela ameaça pôr a boca no trombone, o homem fina-se e a viúva, muito desgostosa, decide calar-se.

Quanto a mim, esta história não tem ponta por onde se lhe pegue. Uma mulher com talento a ser parasitada por um marido que a trai constantemente. Porquê?
1) Porque é pobre e não tem condições para subsistir sozinha? Não. Ela é escritora, e das boas.
2) Por causa dos filhos? Não me pareceu que lhe importassem muito.
3) Porque ele é violento? Não é o caso.
4) Porque ele tem um pénis muito grande (tamanho referido pelo menos duas vezes)? Pouco provável, tendo em conta a cena do beijinho...
5) Porque no Século XX (e nos outros todos) as mulheres (os homens também) têm de lutar muito para saírem da mediocridade? Verdade. Mas se o objectivo deste romance era fazer sobressair essa questão, falhou completamente.

Para terminar deixo uma frase negativa referente a um homem (mas só percebo a parte que diz que é velho, o resto não sei o que é):
"agora estava velho, como um heteroenxerto protético porcino a refrear-lhe o orgulho espetado como um cravo no seu coração, e de alguma forma memórias suínas tinham-se instalado no seu cérebro: imagens felizes de foçar entre nectarinas e ténis velhos." (página 102)
Profile Image for Cher.
800 reviews274 followers
March 26, 2016
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 to me for the majority of the novel. It was only when I read the questions in the reader's guide at the end that I even realized it was supposed to be a surprise to the reader.

Favorite Quote: You say it's only temporary, but life is temporary.

First Sentence: 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.
Profile Image for Майя Ставитская.
1,259 reviews124 followers
August 30, 2022
A famous writer is going to Finland to receive a literary award. This is not a Nobel, the pipe is lower and the smoke is thinner: the prestige is not the same, the prize fund is half as much - but still very, very. Joe Castleman, accompanied by his still attractive wife Joan, flies first (who would doubt) class to Helsinki. While her husband is enjoying the greatest success in his life, she informs herself and us, the readers, about the decision to leave him. Along the way, telling the story of their long marriage.

It would be wrong to reduce the "Wife" to a feminist manifesto about how the male world has once again been guilty before a woman. Like any good book, it's about a lot: that you can't build your happiness on someone else's misfortune; that a man who cheated on his wife with you will cheat on you with another, because this is his inner essence; that maternal labor is not necessarily rewarded by loving successful children; that you can be a thousand times talented but if circumstances do not favor self-realization, it is better to forget about recognition.

Она Жена
– Брак – это двое людей, заключающих выгодную сделку. Я предложил что-то от себя, ты – что-то от себя. Возможно, обмен был неравным.
– Неравным, – согласилась я.

Известный американский писатель едет в Финляндию на вручение литературной премии. Это не Нобель, труба пониже и дым пожиже: престиж не тот, призовой фонд вдвое меньше - но все же весьма и весьма. Джо Каслман в сопровождении своей все еще привлекательной жены Джоан летит первым (кто бы сомневался) классом в Хельсинки. Пока муж наслаждается самым большим в своей жизни успехом, она сообщает себе и нам, читателям о решении уйти от него. Попутно рассказывая историю их долгого брака.

Который начался с того, что привлекательная гойка увела от жены и ребенка своего наставника по литературному мастерству. Да-да, тот брак и без того дышал на ладан, после рождения дочери Кэрол Каслман утратила интерес к сексу и перестала спать с мужем, а мужчинам это необходимо, кто ж не знает? Прежние отношения исчерпали себя, и расстались они по обоюдному согласию, а Джоан все последующие годы была мужу преданной спутницей и музой, родила ему троих детей, и это именно с ней к нему пришла известность.

Зачем расставаться, когда жизнь так явно удалась? Не лучше ли насладиться удачей рядом с мужчиной своей жизни? Почивать на лаврах, покуда не придет время почить в бозе? Отчего она не хочет, узнаем, прочитав книгу Мэг Вулицер. Для меня это новое имя, хотя Вулицер достаточно известная в англоязычном мире романистка, да и на русский переведено несколько ее романов.

"Жена" - история женщины, которая обеспечивает прочный тыл мужу-литератору, оставаясь не то, чтобы в его тени, но словно бы невидимкой. То есть, все (кто есть кто-то) знают, что Джоан Каслман сдержанная и элегантная супруга талантливого писателя, и сам он не упускает случая упомянуть, сколь многим обязан их браку.. Но поговорка "Жена - не стена" вошла в их жизнь сразу после первого успеха, когда на симпатичного буйнокудрого романиста начали заглядываться читательницы. Не только заглядываться, но откровенно вешаться - в их личной истории то время совпало с сексуальной революцией в большом мире.

Что ж сама не пошла налево? Устроила бы симметричный ответ и не было бы так больно от его бесконечных измен. Ну, во-первых, она любила мужа, а при таком раскладе прыгнуть в чужую койку - это как дополнительно себя наказать, такое "назло бабушке, отморожу уши". Во вторых, трое детей, не забыли? Когда заботишься о них, воспитываешь их, нужна им, то времени, сил и желания на такого рода эскапады не остается. И есть еще "в-третьих", о котором мы узнаем в финале, в соответствии с лучшими романными канонами, хотя догадаться могли бы и раньше.

Было бы неверно сводить "Жену" к феминистскому манифесту о том, как в очередной раз провинился перед женщиной мужской мир. Как всякая хорошая книга, она о многом: о том,что на чужом несчастье своего счастья не построишь,; что человек, изменивший жене с тобой, изменит тебе с другой, ибо такова его внутренняя суть; что материнский труд вовсе не обязательно вознаграждается любящими успешными детьми; что можно быть тысячу раз талантливой/ым, но если обстоятельства не благоприятствуют самореализации - о признании лучше забыть.

Или попытаться реализовать схему, в рамках которой твой талант найдет применение. Не вполне честную схему. И быть готовой к тому, что слава достанется другому. Внятный сюжет, яркие герои, неочевидная интрига, и читается взахлеб - отличная книга.
Я действительно была его второй половиной, его лучшей половиной, и все эти годы ни дня не проходило, чтобы я не помнила об этом.<.i>
Profile Image for Melissa Crytzer Fry.
312 reviews336 followers
October 3, 2018
***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 compare the novel with the new movie featuring Glenn Close. Unfortunately, the movie’s actual release date was way later than advertised and won’t allow us to see it in theaters together or to see it as streaming by this weekend’s book club.

At any rate -- I’d never read a Meg Wolitzer book, and I have to say: I’m impressed with the whip-smart writing, the descriptive and unique metaphors, and the story… Writers may appreciate this book more than anyone – and my book club event will determine if that is the case – but I think there are parts of this story that will resonate with almost any woman. In fact, I’m downright excited for the upcoming discourse. With discussion questions like, “Discuss the quiet power of wives, particularly during the late ‘50s, when Joan is initiated into wifehood. Do you think the power wives wield is more visible today?,” I think we’ll have plenty to talk about!

Main character Joan’s comments are caustic and, so often, laugh-out-loud funny that my husband had to ask why I was chuckling as I was reading. “Nothing, nothing,” I’d say, as Joan continued with her philosophy of “the great men.” The author’s descriptions of common sights and occurrences, told through Joan’s eyes -- with vivid metaphor -- are classic. I highlighted a lot of passages in this novel. Consider:

“… she was always powdered and perfumed and large but noble: a sofa that walked.”

“Apparently the world was full of girls like this, each of them simmering in her own stewpot, waiting to be savored by the men who would come by, lift their lids, and inhale.”

Of the literary prize her husband wins: “Maybe other life-forms give out awards, too, and we just don’t know it: Best All-Round Flatworm; Most Helpful Crow.”

“When you watch your husband’s colon at work, at play, see the shy, starburst retraction of his sphincter, the amble of barium through an endless human hose, then you know that he is truly yours, and you are his.”

Not to be misunderstood: this is a serious book with serious themes about 'the wife’s' role in a relationship, about equality, about her own self-identity, about choices made, about regret, about resentment. In fact, with everything that is going on in light of women’s rights in the United States today, the timing couldn’t be better for the movie (Not coincidental, to be sure, since this book was published back in 2004). When I finally see the movie, I may pop back in to share thoughts of big-screen vs. print! I really enjoyed this novel and can’t wait to see Close’s performance of Joan!
Profile Image for Nicole | The Readerly Report.
144 reviews47 followers
December 24, 2009
“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 and the details of her marriage while waiting for the moment when she will end it all with her husband.
I can not even put into words how much I loved this book. The characters were complex and well-drawn, the story was interesting and well-plotted, and the pacing was amazing. And there is a secret, and though that secret (I think) is easily guessed, the unfolding of that secret is a beautiful thing indeed, and is the crux of the novel; how Wolitzer carefully folds, twists and gradually enlarges what we already suspect but are reluctant to say for certain. It was so stunningly well done.

Joan Castleman is so thoughtfully observant and funny in a wry way that I laughed out loud at her commentary, and I felt such an empathy with her ash she looked back on her life and struggled to find and step into herself not that she is well into her middle age and has raised three grown children. Joan’s reflections on herself and on her husband, who is one of those men “who had no idea of how to take care of himself or anyone else, and derived much of his style from The Dylan Thomas Handbook of Personal Hygiene and Etiquette.”, are so funny, and doubly so because they are accurate reflections on life and the types of people we have either heard of or met ourselves.

I loved this book as a character study of a wife finally looking to take back the power that she has been afraid to possess, as a character study marriage and how it grew and changes from the ‘60’s to the present day, as an inside , and because it was a thought provoking and humorous read. I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Holly R W.
327 reviews30 followers
March 26, 2023
I haven't read a book by Phillip Roth in years, but this one reminded me strongly of him. It featured a Jewish man who was obsessed with both sex and with being an important author. In addition to these themes, I thought that Wolitzer's writing style was reminiscent of Roth's.

The book opens with Joe and Joan Castleman flying on a plane to Helsinki, Finland for a prestigious award ceremony. Joe is being honored for having written brilliant and original novels. Joan has been a traditional "1950's style" wife, nurturing her husband and now grown children. She is weighing whether to continue their forty year marriage. Joe is flying high (literally and figuratively) and Joan is feeling disgruntled. This is the story of their romance and marriage from Joan's perspective.

Wolitzer's satire sizzles when she writes of the male literary world that Joe inhabits. It's a rarified fraternity that he belongs to. These men have massive egos and enjoy their intellectual sparring. I especially liked when the author had fun spoofing the trendy "hot" subjects that are so appealing to us readers and what we like to discuss (ie. the author's voice, place as a character in the story, etc.)
Profile Image for Julie.
1,911 reviews38 followers
March 12, 2019
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 to be out walking the dog and heard a phrase that particularly stood out.

One passage that had a special poignancy was the one where the wives are together in a small artisanal store. First, Joan describes an aubergine scarf, including its color and texture, which made me want one! Then, something breaks in her and she confesses the truth of her life to the other wives. Time stopped for me for a while and I felt the depth of her sorrow.

Here are other passages that either truly made me think, or simply gave me a sense of awe at the author's use of language:

This one stopped me in my tracks: "the future, that nebulous hallway."

Joan is talking of her husband when she talks of he "who loved to consume runny cheeses, and whisky and wine. All of which he used as a vessel to carry the pills that kept his blood lipids from congealing like yesterday's pan drippings."

Then, when Joan examines her current employment situation she admits "mostly I didn't want to stay in that office where men were kings and women were geishas (except for one powerful woman editor named Edith Tansley who looked like a hawk and terrified everyone, man and woman)."

This one just made my mind boggle, and I guffawed out loud: "we were high and laughing but the ambience was mammogram waiting room as opposed to sexual cave."

And, finally, my favorite passage of all and the one that truly sums it all up:

“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.”
Profile Image for Yulia.
339 reviews317 followers
June 13, 2008
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 weaknesses.

My brows were furrowed just ten minutes ago and Frank asked what was wrong. "Oh, it's something in the book, very disturbing." "Is it that good?" "Yes, definitely, so far at least."

The scene in which Joan reads Joe's short story is is asked what she thought of it reminds me of when a former ENglish teacher sent me something he'd written. It'd already been published in the school alumni magazine, so it was too late to offer constructive criticism (it could never be made into a great piece, just a competent one), so I instead focused on the argument he was making and spent paragraphs refuting his position. Not wise perhaps, but he never did send me another piece to comment on again, thankfully. Was he expecting me to be in awe? I'm a grown girl, you know.

Hmm, once her husband comes out with his first novel, it becomes very predictable, less satirical, less fresh, even forced. Wow, he had no problems becoming instantly famous? How convenient. I may be envious, but my envy is draped with great doubt. Her book needs him to be instantly successful, and so he is. It doesn't fit her plot to struggle for more than a chapter. I suppose I shouldn't have wanted realism in this book, but she'd raised my hopes so high with her start, I'm wondering if she can salvage it in the last quarter. Please do.

No SPOILER, but the end was a cop-out, completely, making me wonder why Wolitzer had built up so much to let the reader down. Was she not up to the challenge? Perhaps, but I feel greatly let down, and just after the book had become not funny, but inspiring, rousing, motivating. Erg. I'll have to convince myself it was the only appropriate answer for her character, who'd always lived a fearful, appropriate life.

The lesson? Don't expect much from the fearful and appropriate.
Profile Image for Kelly.
878 reviews3,978 followers
January 21, 2019
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 why of the whole thing, which it absolutely hinges on, never quite sold itself to me, and I’m very very into marriage stories about the deal of the whole thing and why it matters. But that’s probably partly a result of the writing and not being able to invest myself in enough things about Joan to go along with her on this one. I felt like this was perhaps a story for someone else? My mother’s older sisters’ generation maybe? I don’t mean for that to sound condescending if it does, I just absolutely cannot wrap my head around the leaps of why and how I’m meant to make with her for me to buy in. I get that it’s an exaggerated version of a thing many wives do in smaller ways every single day and it’s meant to be the horror movie version of following something to a logical conclusion. But, for me, the power of its reveal is long past the point of time where it might be visceral and tell us all something about ourselves. Maybe it’s also class thing? I definitely did not grow up with the generational wealth or culture or politics that might have made the characters recognizable to me? I’m really reaching to see how it could be about me, because I wanted to love this like the rest of you.

I can see how it would make for a wonderfully compelling movie, though. I bet Glenn Close kicks ass at it.
Profile Image for Mindy.
308 reviews38 followers
January 15, 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 help at all, for they were somewhere else entirely, out walking in the world by themselves. But wives, oh wives, when they weren't being bitter or melancholy or counting the beads on their abacus of disappointment, they could take care of you with delicate and effortless ease."

Profile Image for Célia | Estante de Livros.
1,143 reviews229 followers
May 24, 2018
Meg Wolitzer tornou-se conhecida dos leitores portugueses depois da publicação de Os Interessantes (Teorema | 2014), ainda que este não tenha sido o primeiro livro da autora a sair por cá; na verdade, A Mulher, agora publicado igualmente pela Teorema, já tinha conhecido uma edição portuguesa em 2009, pela editora Caleidoscópio.

A Mulher é narrado na primeira pessoa por Joan Castleman, uma sexagenária casada com o famoso escritor Joe Castleman. No início da narrativa, encontramo-los num avião rumo à Finlândia, onde Joe se prepara para receber um importante prémio literário; e é aí, acima das nuvens, que Joan decide que a sua vida de casada chegou ao fim. O espaço de tempo entre o fim dessa viagem e a estadia no país nórdico serve para a narradora relembrar a sua vida com Joe, desde que se conheceram – ele era professor dela na universidade – percorrendo toda a carreira dele até aos dias de hoje, e o papel que ela desempenhou naquela vida sempre cheia de viagens e eventos.

Joan cresceu e viveu num período em que as mulheres eram vistas praticamente como acessórios sem vida própria, que deveriam viver para o marido, os filhos e a casa; e ela pareceu aceitar esse papel resignadamente, como se a sua pessoa não pudesse existir de forma verdadeira sem Joe – “eu continuava a sentir que, de nós os dois, era ele o importante, e eu estava inacabada. Ele poderia acabar-me, pensei; poderia proporcionar-me as coisas de que eu precisava para me tornar de facto uma pessoa completa.” Apesar das suas capacidades de escrita, reveladas ainda cedo, Joan aceita de forma natural o destino de “mulher de”, adaptando a sua posição aos hábitos dos anos 1950: “eu não queria jogar no mesmo campo que os homens; nunca me teria sentido confortável e não seria capaz de competir. O meu mundo não era suficientemente grande, suficientemente abrangente, suficientemente dramático, e os temas ao meu dispor eram escassos. Eu tinha noção dos meus limites.

Confesso que o sentimento de resignação chega a ser revoltante e é-o ainda mais quando chegamos ao final do livro e tomamos conhecimento de todos os factos da relação entre Joan e Joe; adivinhavam-se cedo na história, mas a sua magnitude impressiona e faz-nos desejar que Joan tivesse tomado uma atitude mais cedo.

Apesar de destacar a posição submissa de uma mulher notável, A Mulher é profundamente feminista, uma vez que condensa em Joan as vozes de tantas e tantas mulheres que sacrificaram os seus talentos e gostos pessoais em prol de valores que a sociedade entendeu serem mais importantes. Felizmente os tempos mudaram para melhor nesse aspecto, apesar de haver ainda muito por fazer. Agora quero muito ler Os Interessantes!

Toda a gente precisa de uma mulher; até as mulheres precisam de mulheres. As mulheres cuidam, pairam. Os seus ouvidos são instrumentos gémeos e sensíveis, satélites que detetam o mínimo traço de insatisfação. Nós, as mulheres, levamos caldo, levamos clipes, levamo-nos a nós mesmas e aos nossos corpos flexíveis e quentes. Sabemos o que dizer aos homens que, por algum motivo, têm uma grande dificuldade em cuidar consistentemente de si mesmos, ou seja de quem for.
Profile Image for Brittany McCann.
1,564 reviews394 followers
September 7, 2022
This book was interesting, and I can see it being suitable as a movie (hopefully).

I felt disgusted for Joe throughout the book, and it was realistic in a marriage where someone doesn't want it to end because they don't wish to change; I think that happens too much.

It was told well in some shorter flashbacks and all around a single present-time event for an award—a quicker, easy read, but nothing spectacular.

Solid 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Marisa Sicilia.
Author 15 books224 followers
August 15, 2019
Me ha tenido enganchada la acidez de Meg Wolitzer y su visión mordaz de la escritura y la fama, la forma de esquivar esa evidencia que intuyes desde el principio y la sutilidad con la que muestra cómo ese silencio afectó a toda una familia. También me ha parecido muy real esa pareja que forman la buena esposa (la protagonista y la voz narradora) y su marido. Ella, Joan, muy representativa de tantas mujeres a las que los cambios sociales respecto a los roles de género les llegaron tarde. Y, sin embargo, aún a pesar de resultarme creíble (o al menos no del todo inimaginable), no me acabó de convencer la actitud de Joan y que soportase tantos desaires de Joe (que será porque a esas alturas Joan ya estaba harta de él, pero era verdaderamente insoportable). Seguramente porque me habría gustado que reaccionase mucho antes.
Profile Image for Ed.
Author 39 books2,691 followers
September 3, 2019
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.
Profile Image for TXGAL1.
254 reviews25 followers
August 26, 2020
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.

Profile Image for Hoss.
35 reviews9 followers
March 20, 2007
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.
Profile Image for Nicko D.
261 reviews82 followers
April 25, 2019
Половото равенство е химера, която едва ли някога ще избледнее най-вече заради предимството, което по природа мъжете имат на старта с жените. „Съпругата” на американската писателка Мег Уолицър е брилянтен разказ с фенимистични нотки за живота на една омъжена жена, чиито плещи вече не издържат на дългогодишния товар. И когато тя, главната героиня Джоан, решава, че е време за промяна в статуквото, то оказва се e твърде късно, дори безсмислено, че и болезнено. „Съпругата” е част от каталога на издателство „Колибри”, в превод на Надя Баева.

Повечето хора са наясно какви борци са жените, как кроят планове, рецепти, идеи за по-добър свят и често те им убягват по пътя към детското креватче посред нощ, към супермаркета или към кухнята. Възможно ли е жените да постигат същите успехи като мъжете? В романа си Уолицър заключва, че нерядко съпругите губят бъдещето си, докато лъскат пътеката, по която мъжът и децата им се придвижват необезпокоявани през живота; и че всяка съпруга има нужда от съпруга!

Книгата на Мег Уолицър ни пренася в средата на 20-и век в едно успяло американско семейство: мъжът е известен писател с няколко бестселъра зад гърба си, жена му върти успешно домакинството и е винаги усмихната до него, радват се на три пораснали деца. Романът започва с полет към Финландия, където Джо, израснало без баща хлапе в Бруклин, трябва да бъде удостоен с изключително престижна награда за цялостно творчество. В този момент обаче съпругата му Джоан дооформя мислите си, с които ще сложи край на дългогодишния си брак с него.

„Съпругата” е разлистване във вътрешния свят на една несигурна, грижовна, премълчала и изтърпяла много неправди жена, загърбила себе си напът към семейното щастие. През целия си живот Джоан се терзае от необяснима вина, заради която търпи изневерите на съпруга си, съзнателно прави избора да се превърне в негова сянка, не спира да го бута към върха. Интелигентността й я спира да е нахална. С течение на годините обаче, в есента на техния семеен живот, гневът в Джоан се пробужда, тя иска да обърне гръб на Джо, да му покаже, че без нея той е кръгла нула – остарял, сам, неспособен да създаде каквото и да е… И изведнъж, отприщила дълготаения си гняв, животът поставя Джоан в още по-неподходяща позиция: показва й, че всичко е преходно на този свят, утежнява вината й, без да й даде никакъв хоризонт.

„Съпругата” е много повече от разказ за бита на мъж и жена, решили да увековечат любовта си и закономерните боричкания помежду им през годините, придружени с множество компромиси. Романът ни потапя в стереотипите, с които една жена трябва да се пребори по пътя към върха, хвърля светлина към първите литературни колоси в рокля от среда на 20-и век. Това е забавно-мъдра история за онзи критичен момент, в който съзираме ироничната усмивка на съдбата. Защото понякога именно животът, за който сме се борили и който сме смятали, че искаме, е точно това, от което трябва да се откажем, за да продължим напред.

Мег Уолицър е родена на 29 май 1959 година в Бруклин, Ню Йорк. Автор на бестселъри. Дъщеря е на романистката Хилма Уолицър, баща й е психолог. Друга нейна книга, издадена в България, е „Белжар”.
Profile Image for verbava.
967 reviews94 followers
January 8, 2020
ох, яка ж гарна і страшна книжка.
more words to come, імовірно, але поки що я просто моргаю в стелю й віддихуюся – не від фінального твісту, звісно, бо всі знають фінальний твіст (а хто не знає наперед, той і так здогадається), а від того густого, темного й розкішного, з чого зроблений цей текст.
Profile Image for Ify.
165 reviews179 followers
July 30, 2018
"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 strove toward, never worked yourself up over, but simply lived beside season upon season, which started piling up like bricks, spread thick with sloppy mortar. A marriage bed would rise up between the two of you, a marriage bed, and you would lie in it gracefully."

I learned about this novel via the trailer for the film adaptation. Then one of my Twitter faves mentioned that it's one of her favorite books. The combination of the two brought me to this moment. The Wife did not become one of my favorite books, but I did like reading this for the most part.

Joan Castleman decides to leave her husband, Joseph, while they are both on a plane to Finland, where he will be awarded a prestigious literary prize. Throughout the novel, we are taken down memory lane, shown how Joan and Joseph met decades ago (he was an English professor of hers, and married), and the author alternates between the past and present to weave a story of how Joan came to be a supporting cast member in the Joseph Castleman show.

What did I love about this novel? Meg Wolitzer's use of dry humor in this novel, her writing, and the decision to write about a woman whose ambitions take a backseat to her husband's. What did I not like about this novel? The slow-moving plot that was bogged down by details that I would have better appreciated if they didn't take up so much space and time. At some point, the details became tedious and seemed like filler. I wished the author had not waited till the end to reveal the plot twist.

That being said, I did like this novel a fair amount.
Profile Image for Caryn.
829 reviews64 followers
October 20, 2015
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!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,229 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.