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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will stay with you long after the last page is turned
I bought this book yesterday at work. Lately I haven't been in the habit of finishing books in one sitting, as I used to (probably because I feel guilty about neglecting my own novel), but How to be a Good Wife was impossible to put down. It tells the story of a woman we are introduced to as Marta, whose ordered and placid life begins to unravel when she stops taking the...
Published on 19 Jan. 2013 by silvanhistorian

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to Be a Good Wife
“Make your home a place of peace and order.”

This book narrates the story of Marta as told by her. It starts off as she is a woman aged in her 40s, her only son grown up and now moved away. She misses him, and has a rather aloof relationship with her husband. At least, that’s how it seems. She seems in her narration at times to be rather...
Published 7 months ago by Keen Reader

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars How to Be a Good Wife, 16 Sept. 2014
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: How to Be a Good Wife (Paperback)
“Make your home a place of peace and order.”

This book narrates the story of Marta as told by her. It starts off as she is a woman aged in her 40s, her only son grown up and now moved away. She misses him, and has a rather aloof relationship with her husband. At least, that’s how it seems. She seems in her narration at times to be rather dismissive of her husband Hector, and at other times to be unsure of how she came to be married to him; memories are deceptive, or perhaps she’s only now starting to question them. Is that because she’s no longer taking her medications? And what were the medications for? Slowly the reader starts to piece together things from what Marta says, or doesn’t say. Our own conclusions starting to be drawn, we read on to find out if we may be right, or if we have perhaps been misled; by our own emotions/thoughts, or by Marta’s uncertain narrative. Throughout, we read snippets from the book given to her by her mother-in-law on her wedding day, How To Be A Good Wife. Again, we are unsure; are Marta’s relationships the cause of her uncertainties, or are they a result of Marta’s nature?

One thing I found a little odd was why the book was set in what seemed to be a Scandinavian country. Given that the author appears to be English, and living in Australia, I thought there must be a reason for the book’s geographical setting, but there really didn’t seem to be. Perhaps just a whim of the author.

Overall, a pleasant read; very well written, and well paced; but I felt the plot was underdeveloped. There needed to be another edge to the story to make it memorable. As it was, it remains a well written, but forgettable modern novel.
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47 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will stay with you long after the last page is turned, 19 Jan. 2013
By 
silvanhistorian (South-west England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: How to Be a Good Wife (Hardcover)
I bought this book yesterday at work. Lately I haven't been in the habit of finishing books in one sitting, as I used to (probably because I feel guilty about neglecting my own novel), but How to be a Good Wife was impossible to put down. It tells the story of a woman we are introduced to as Marta, whose ordered and placid life begins to unravel when she stops taking the medication given to her by her husband. The reader soon realises that Marta's past may not be as innocuous as it seems. Neither is Hector, her rather sinister husband. I have to say I am deeply impressed at how skilfully the simple narrative handles the complex emotional consequences of post-traumatic shock.

A small cast of characters allows for some excellent characterisation, and the setting is perfect. The empty, echoing beauty of Scandinavia rather brilliantly complements the solitude in which Marta lives, teetering between past and present. Her painful, eerie journey towards a possible truth is quite chillingly evoked through sharp dialogue and stark imagery. Though a fairly short novel, it clings to you after the end; I kept wondering what effect the conclusion would have on the other characters, and couldn't help `writing' more of the story in my head. I don't mean of course that the story required further development. Its ending was such that you didn't want to pull away, to lay it down. You wanted to talk about it, reflect upon it - and that is the mark of a story well-told. That and its legacy - a distinct and unique haunting. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Author to Watch, 18 Nov. 2012
By 
M. Dowden (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How to Be a Good Wife (Hardcover)
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We all know, a new author comes along and the blurb for the book is usually out of this world - but in reality it virtually never turns out to be as good as the hype. This book perhaps doesn't live up to all the hype, but the author is definitely someone to watch, if this début is anything to go by. First novels can be a bit clumsy, but in this case my only complaint would be that it is a bit jarring in places.

Told by Marta, the main character, we are led on by someone who is to a degree one we soon find to be unreliable. With her suddenly realising that she smokes, that she forgets things, that she hallucinates, we also find she is on medication. Deeply unsettling this is a story that leads us around the houses, it has suspense and is deeply psychological, and is eerie and unsettling. As you read further you feel lost not knowing what will happen next, as the story goes back and forth in time. This would actually make a good film, especially with its small cast of characters, and the fact that you could set this in other locations. Also due to its form this would be an ideal read for book groups. Not the best book you will read in 2013 although this will be something that is haunting and unsettling and will make you think. If this is anything to go by then this author definitely has a great career ahead of her.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to be a Good Wife, 2 May 2013
By 
Damaskcat (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How to Be a Good Wife (Hardcover)
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Marta and Hector have been married for many years and have an adult son who lives in the city. Marta is the narrator and within the first few paragraphs the reader realises there is something very wrong in her life.

Hector seems to check up on her more than is normal and is constantly reminding her to take her pills. Marta sees things - but are they things going on in her head or are they hallucinations - or maybe Hector is trying to convince her that she is actually insane.

This is a disturbing book and what is real and what is a figment of Marta's potentially deranged mind is far from clear. Did I enjoy it? I'm really not sure whether I enjoyed it or not. I did find it very unsettling as the author succeeds in blurring the borders of reality and imagination and I found I couldn't trust what I was reading. I found myself constantly reminded of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's `The Yellow Wallpaper' which I have always thought a very frightening read.

Whether or not readers enjoy this book is going to be unpredictable. Some will love it, some will hate it but it would be a good book for book clubs to read and discuss as there will be plenty of different opinions about it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read, 30 Sept. 2013
This review is from: How to Be a Good Wife (Hardcover)
This was yet another of my summer fiction reads. I did not know what to expect but was soon drawn into this story of a wife and mother who is the book's narrator. The text is woven with intrigue and it becomes clear to the reader early on that there is something which this woman will not tell us - or perhaps does not know. As the story winds its way to its conclusion, we begin to suspect something which we dare not voice and we wait for the narrator to discover this truth for herself. In my opinion, this was worth a read.

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting novel, worth a read but not as satisfying as I'd like!, 17 Dec. 2014
This review is from: How to Be a Good Wife (Paperback)
** For more book reviews follow my blog: http://snazzybooks.wordpress.com **

How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman was definitely an interesting and different novel, in my opinion. It was a difficult subject matter and I fluctuated between being really interested in the story to feeling like it was dragging on a bit to having completely mixed feelings about the ending!

The story is told from the view of Marta, wife of Hector and mother to her grown-up son Kylan, and we really see that Marta seems to have no real identity apart from in these two roles. Her insistence that she stick to the rules of the awful ‘self-help’ guide called ‘How to be a Good Wife’, which she is given by her mother-in-law, demonstrates her eagerness to be a good wife to Hector but also shows her timidness and conformity. She doesn’t seem like she’s really grown up from the quiet, troubled teenager she was when she first met Hector- or so she thinks. The book makes you question the motives of pretty much every character in it, including Marta herself, and I found that quite interesting to read. However I did feel like I was waiting for something to happen for the first half.

There isn’t that much else I can say about this book without giving too much away but, despite some parts feeling a little slow, it did keep me reading on and it had some good twists and turns along the way. I felt like this was impressive considering I didn’t really like any of the characters, including Marta herself (I just found her quite irritating to be honest and she was quite mean to her son’s fiance), and especially not her husband Hector, for obvious reasons!

The comparison on the front to ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ isn’t very accurate, in my opinion- this isn’t really the same kind of pace or style, but I suppose the main narrative is in a similar vein.

I don’t know how I feel about the ending to be honest; it’s probably quite realistic but did surprise me (though others I know who have read it said they saw it coming a mile off!). I also know a lot of life can’t be neatly tied up at the end and so this novel is probably just reflecting that, but I do kind of wish we’d found out more conclusions about certain topics.

This is a pretty short book so worth reading even if you end up disliking it. I’d be interested in hearing other reviews or opinions on this book too as I’m still a little undecided overall!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Erudite début novel., 9 Dec. 2014
This review is from: How to Be a Good Wife (Paperback)
I cannot say this was a boring novel as it was far from that, in fact it is an extremely erudite début from an obviously talented young lady. However it was just not for me, I found no pleasure in reading this novel and probably should not have done so, but I do like to keep my reading material eclectic! When I was offered the opportunity to read this I had expectations of it being along the lines of Room which I really loved. So I was extremely disappointed to discover that to me, as I know I am in the minority, this was completely lacking in storyline and tension. The character of Marta, just annoyed me, maybe I missed the point and she was meant to and as for Hector, well I thought he was a horrid man! Let me give you a brief synopsis and you can decide for yourself if this thriller is for you.

Marta is married to Hector, twenty years her senior and the man who apparently helped her through a traumatic time during her teens and then eventually took her as his wife. The relationship seems extremely cold and unloving to the reader with Hector controlling her every move. She is not allowed to venture beyond the limits of the village they reside in and has to take medication deemed necessary for her well being by her husband. It is her decision to stop this medication that leads to Marta, starting to recall little by little a past life. Or maybe this is all in her imagination after all? Deliberately vague in the telling the reader is ultimately left to make up their own mind.

As I am very much in the minority with my thoughts on 'How To Be A Good Wife' I am not able to recommend it to you but hope that my review will help you make a considered choice, if this is a genre you normally enjoy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read, 21 May 2014
This review is from: How to Be a Good Wife (Paperback)
I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Marta, a housewife in her 40's lives with her older husband Hector. Her beloved son Kylan has moved away from home and she is having difficulty accepting the fact that it will be just her and Hector from now on. Marta and Hector's relationship had an unusual beginning, with Hector supposedly finding Marta on a doorstep having lost her memory, though the story they tell others is slightly different.

Marta is supposed to take medication, though never explained it appears that these are either anti depressants or anti psychotic drugs as the last time Marta stopped taking them she had 'episodes'. Unknown to Hector, Marta has again stopped taking the medication. Slowly she begins to see a girl and images, though she isn't sure if she's hallucinating or recovering long hidden memories. Whilst all this is going on Hector's own secret begins to emerge.

This is a gripping debut from Emma Chapman. I read How to be a Good Wife in one day. It is set in an unnamed town in an unnamed Scandinavian country, the hills and fjords surrounding Marta's village making it seem closed off and adding to the impending sense of claustrophobia the book imparts. Marta hasn't left the confines of the village for 25 years, under orders from Hector not to do so, for the good of her health. I felt the claustrophobia and mild panic build as the story unfolded, which made it all the more impacting for me.

The outcome of the story is deliberately ambiguous in that Emma Chapman has left it for the reader to decide what has really happened to Marta and Hector. This is a great story device as all the way through the reader is left to make their own decision as to what is being played out. Because of the nature of the story I cannot really say any more about what happens to Marta and Hector, as this would spoil it for the reader. Be prepared for a chilling, enthralling story that grabs you and won't let go until you come to your conclusion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull and inconclusive., 18 Jan. 2015
I was so bored by this book. Not a page turner, more of a page skipper. It was just a dull and dreary account of nothing much happening and a woman who was going mad - or was she? There weren't even any answers. Having said that, some people have obviously enjoyed it but it really wasn't for me.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who can you trust?, 19 Jan. 2013
By 
Denise4891 (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: How to Be a Good Wife (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Marta Bjornstad is wife to Hector and mother to Kyle - and this is very much how she defines herself. On her wedding day she was given a book by Hector's mother entitled `How to be a Good Wife' and ever since she has tried to live her life according to the dated and cringeworthy epithets it contains.

This is a book where nothing is quite what it seems and no-one is as innocent as they first appear - or are they? Marta is our narrator and it becomes increasingly difficult to tell how reliable her version of events is. She lives an isolated existence, virtually housebound ("Your husband belongs in the outside world. The house is your domain and your responsibility" states her `bible') apart from her 1 pm daily trip to the market, which she observes religiously. Her hazy childhood recollections and the medication that Hector insists she takes, hint at a troubled past.

The remote Scandinavian setting adds to the sense of isolation and paranoia which we experience along with Marta and the ethereal nature of the story is increased by Marta's visions of a young blonde girl in white pyjamas - who is she and how does she figure in Marta's past?

It's a short book (164 pages) which really packs a punch. The obvious comparisons have been made to `Before I Go To Sleep' by SJ Watson, but I preferred HTBAGW - I found it more believable somehow and hence more scary! A chilling and very clever debut novel.
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How to Be a Good Wife
How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman (Hardcover - 3 Jan. 2013)
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