Well, the publisher's blurb describes this as `shocking and compelling' - I have to say that I was neither shocked nor compelled. The set-up is an interesting one: Jodi and Todd have been together for 20 years, they supposedly love each other but Todd is a serial philanderer and Jodi pretends not to notice. Then his latest affair with a girl young enough to be his daughter brings everything to a head.
The problem is very little actually happens. And what does is related in a very mannered and distancing style that grated with me. This is an extract from the first page: `At forty-five Jodi still sees herself as a young woman. She does not have her eye on the future but lives very much in the moment, keeping her focus on the everyday... she is deeply unaware that her life is now peaking, that her youthful resilience is reaching a final stage of disintegration'. The whole book is written in this style, drawing attention to an omniscient narrator who tells us everything that the characters are thinking and feeling, with hardly anything being dramatised or `shown' to us.
The writing is spare and elegant but it kept me at arm's distance from the characters - perhaps a good thing as they're both deeply unpleasant. Todd is portrayed as a leering, lecherous, Neanderthal, and Jodi is a psychotherapist who avoids treating genuinely ill or troubled people.
So I'm afraid I found this a slow, tedious and, ultimately, pointless read - 3-stars is generous but the technical aspects of the writing warrant it.
Set in Chicago, Jodi and Todd have been common law partners for 20 years. Todd has been seeing women on the side on and off for many years but always remained by Jodi’s side – and Jodi’s known about it too. Then Todd goes too far and sleeps with his best friend’s 18 year old daughter Natasha and gets her pregnant. He decides to lose Jodi – and that’s when Jodi decides she’s not going to take it anymore.
I did not like this one at all. The characters were written in a way that I never really believed they were real people. Todd is cartoonishly portrayed at times while Jodi is simply a doormat until the plot requires her to be something else. Natasha is one-dimensional as the crazy woman going after Jodi. But more than that, I hated every single person in this book. A. S. A. Harrison’s unable to make anyone in this book interesting or likeable. Jodi is irritating as hell by being so passive and pathetic in accepting her partner’s indiscretions, content that he remains by her side, plying her with gifts while he fools around with younger women. Todd on the other hand is just a plain idiot, and the others, well, I couldn’t care less about them.
A big part of this problem is Harrison’s awkward writing style. The writing 101 rule “show, don’t tell” pertinently applies here as Harrison tells the reader about character qualities and story points without showing us. Everything about stoic, boring Jodi is told to us because she has no character. “Jodi is… Jodi was… She was…” and so on, while the narration is along the lines of “This is about to happen to her…”. It’s amateurish and embarrassing for a professional writer to put out such poorly written prose.
The book attempts to ham-fistedly explain the complications of common law partnerships in the wake of a break-up but all I could see was that Todd, the “bad guy” of the story, was well within his rights. He proposed to Jodi early on in their relationship but she kept turning him down so when they separated, she wasn’t entitled to half his stuff – which I thought was all well and good. He tried to marry her, giving her all the legal leverage she’d need to claim some of his assets in their breakup, but she said no, so it’s on her. Sure, morally Todd’s wrong, but he’s going to be with the mother of his child and, frankly, there wasn’t any love in his relationship with Jodi anyway – they were mired in routine and Todd seemed happy to be away from her.
The story is generally very slow and meandering with things just kind of ticking over for the most part. There’s too much psychotherapy nonsense in here that I didn’t care for – Harrison did some research and/or a psychology degree, here’s some stuff to prove it! It only becomes a “thriller” until the final act and even then I wasn’t that interested. And the “twist”? Pathetic. I could see that coming a mile off.
The Silent Wife is a boring, stodgy novel filled with unlikeable characters and a badly written story that barely interests. I wouldn’t bother.
Ok, so I both loved and hated this book in equal measure. The story, that of a marriage disintegrating slowly but surely and told from the point of view of both of the partners, is compelling indeed. However the more I read on, the more I realised that I had no sympathy for either of them. Frankly they deserved each other! Sometimes though, having a book peppered with completely unlikeable characters works - and in this case it did. Instead of rooting for one or the other, I just found myself fascinated by the psyche of both...and actually getting quite cross with the pair of them. Jodie is a doormat. Yes she is. She runs the home with super efficiency, puts up with her husband's philandering and generally just enables him in his quest to do exactly what he likes. Todd doesnt know what he wants. He wants Jodie at home doing her thing, but he also wants to have the freedom to stray. And for some unfathomable reason, for a long time it works for both of them. Until Todd meets a woman who knows what SHE wants and from there this half life that both Jodie and Todd have been leading is going to come to a head....
The beauty of this book is that I didnt really know where it was going to end up. Both the major players have huge emotional issues and are seemingly unable to form coherent thoughts on what it is they think should be happening. The breadth of misunderstanding between the pair of them is amazing. And yet, it seems realistic. Hearing from first one then the other, seeing each different event from their individual points of view, works extremely well. Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive....that saying is oh so true here. Comparisons have been made to "Gone Girl". No. Sorry. Not sure where that came from, in my opinion it doesnt do either novel any good. The simple comparison yes - we hear from two players in an ongoing long term relationship - but other than that "The Silent Wife" is completely different.
Cleverly written, not needing to rely on too many twists and turns, I am saddened that we will not get more from this author who passed away this year - I think the reading world has lost something without ever knowing it had gained it in the first place. I would highly recommend you don't let this one pass you by. You may not LOVE it. But it will compel you to read to the end.
A beautifully written novel. Unfortunately it kept itself distanced from me because the central characters are so hard to like and so little happens. The Silent Wife is the study of a marriage as it implodes; man finds younger woman and leaves childless wife after many years together. What happens next is a story of revenge, jealousy and a weak man becoming little more than a pawn in a strategic game played out between two women. There's little that reflects the fire and claws that would naturally ensue in that situation. Maybe because the wife's a psychotherapist she's written to reflect a clinical, detached attitude?. I expected, wanted, to feel real empathy for her and I couldn't. There's a tendency for the author to 'tell' the reader what the character is thinking/feeling/doing rather than develop them as people which adds to the overwhelming feeling of distance and non - attachment. I can only repeat what I said at the start; the standard of writing is clever and intelligent. The method of story telling didn't appeal to me at all.
The Silent Wife is a misnomer: Jodi and Todd have been together 20 years but they are not married. Like Gone Girl, it is the story of a woman who takes unreasonable steps to avenge her anger with her partner. Unlike Gone Girl, it is just another novel about a disintegrating relationship. Yes, it has psychological elements but it is no thriller. The real reason it has been compared to Gone Girl is, I think, the simple fact that the chapters alternate between the female and the male's point of view.
The thoroughly dislikeable main characters have a marked lack of self-awareness, surprising in the case of Jodi who is a psychotherapist. "You will not be the same sort of person coming out of a relationship as you were going into it" seems to be about the extent of it. Her sessions with Gerard Hartmann, her supposedly brilliant supervisor, are interesting but lack depth. His stock question: "How do you feel about that?" is first-year counselling course stuff.
I also found the writing curiously detached. The Silent Wife has none of the delicious intricacies and flourishes of Gone Girl though admittedly it is the more believable. (Not difficult, as Gone Girl is extremely far-fetched.) In short, this book is over-hyped and underwhelming.
This compelling book tells the story of two rather unpleasant people in a dysfunctional relationship. Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert have been together for 20 years but (and here's the rub) they're not married. The reluctance to commit is all Jodi's, a decision she comes to regret when their relationship breaks down and she becomes "nothing more than an ex-girlfriend whose free ride is now over".
It could almost be described as the very definition of a psychological thriller. Jodi runs a psychology practice from their home, but seems to spend a lot of time giving her clients nicknames based on their particular mental quirks and relating the lurid details of their consultations to Todd. It's clear very early on in the book that their relationship is troubled, despite the shiny veneer they present to the outside world and the breakdown of their relationship and Jodi's efforts to salvage her comfortable lifestyle form the crux of the story. Todd is a serial philanderer (basically he's a total creep), but I found it hard to feel any sympathy for Jodi (can't go into too much detail without spoiling the plot). You won't like these people, but if your experience is anything like mine you'll feel compelled to keep following their self-destructive behaviour - the phrase `car crash TV' springs to mind.
The inevitable comparisons have been made with Gone Girl and Before I Go To Sleep - I actually preferred it to both of these books. It's also been compared to the Slap and I concur with this for the reasons mentioned above (dislikeable characters hell bent on self-destruction etc). It's not perfect - Jodi's friend Alison's rather extreme suggestion to help her out of her predicament, and Jody's willingness to go along with it, seemed a little far-fetched (in fact their friendship in general didn't really ring true) and Todd is a bit too much of a two-dimensional slimeball to be totally believable - but on the whole I was really impressed with this dark and disturbing novel and was very sad to hear that Susan Harrison died shortly before its publication.
on 12 July 2014
Although the reader is told in the first few pages that someone will be killed, this isn't really crime fiction. It's actually a serious novel about a relationship and the aftermath of its breakdown. The author was clearly very knowledgable about psychology and made one of her central characters a psychotherapist. I found the description of her work and her own experience of therapy one of the most interesting parts of the book.
The crime, when it happens, which is late in the story, is quite predictable, as is the twist. The psychological revelation is better and quite unexpected. There's a lot to like in this book, so why only three stars? For me the writer got bogged down with a lot of detail in the central part of her story. When I find myself skimming through a hundred or more pages, this isn't a book I can recommend with any enthusiasm.
on 21 February 2016
Jodi Brett is the silent wife, but really she isn’t because she has been the domestic partner of Todd Gilbert for 20 years but never married him. Handsome, larger-than-life, charismatic Todd Gilbert, who picked her up after she had a car accident that clipped his car. That should have warned her about him, but it didn’t. How he could be so smooth. Maybe her accident should have warned him about her; her distractedness. Is she all there, all present mentally? But it didn’t.
And they had 20 years of accommodating the others’ faults and weaknesses. Making space when overtaking the other in their day-to-day lives. Never asking questions. Every good marriage, or cohabitation, is arguably full of accommodations. Give and take. How much give is too much, one asks themselves. How much is too much too take, one wonders. Every bad marriage in the same vein, is full of not enough accommodating the space the significant other takes up, and either demanding or expecting too much, leaving both parties feeling dissatisfied.
But at least it’s out in the open right? No one outside the marriage knows. And there lay the crux of the problem between Jodi and Todd, until the seams split open by one transgression too many. The fragile harmony cracked.
The psychology, the irony of the shrink unable to heal herself, the delicate analogies of psychological problems throughout, all made this a comfortable read. By the three-quarter mark, I was fair galloping along. I picked up the hint – not a clue exactly – given around halfway through the book, of the untreated sore in Jodi’s life (I am avoiding giving too much away). It let me know that Jodi’s own sessions with a shrink, during her studies, were largely a major cover-up. Then came Alison, and I would have like the outcome to have been more fleshed out, to avoid spoilers.
A fast read. A satisfying read? Not entirely. Did it make me think? Sure.
on 26 August 2014
This book had moments of looking as if it was going to become a 'gripping, can't put down' book but then it would change to 'wading through stodge'. In spite of that I had to finish it, and so it deserves its three stars. Jodi and Todd have together for 20 years, ever since she collided her car with his. He is a business man, involved in buying and selling buildings and she is a psycho-therapist who works from home. He finds it impossible to be monogamous and, for some reason, she continues as it nothing is happening. Their relationship has developed into a way of 'getting along'. The story is told by alternate chapters entitled, 'Her' and 'Him'. It written in the third person but the story is told by each of their thoughts and memories. She, herself, is in therapy and we are given some of those conversations. She is an Adlerian therapist, and perhaps, this explains why it is written the way it is. Todd is entrapped by the daughter of his best friend, with whom he is having an affair, and the story shows the disintegration of his and Jodi's 'marriage' as well as the disintegration of each of their emotional personalities. They are both entirely self-centred, each needing the other for support and emotional rewards. Parts of it reminded me of 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn but is not 'in you face' like that story telling. This is far more insiduous. There are few twists to the story.... it is quite relentless really.... but it offers a different sort of story line and has a bit of a surprise at the end to leave you with a little bit of a question.
on 20 July 2014
On my copy of The Silent Wife there are two back-cover comparisons to Gone Girl - and there are more on the inside covers, and even in the synopsis. And while The Silent Wife is a story about a marriage going completely wrong, I don’t think it’s really all that similar to Gone Girl - this is more a study of two characters, and their complete ability to avoid any and all confrontation until everything explodes.
Jodi is, to put it mildly, a cold fish. She’s controlled, has the ability to only see what she wants to see, and is obsessed with having what she feels is the perfect life. Todd is pretty much a dick - he’s a serial cheater, who seems to have very little moral compass, and almost no backbone. Which made him deliciously despicable - and every story like this needs a character to despise.
There’s not a huge amount of action in The Silent Wife - Todd and Jodi dance around each other for pretty much the whole book, Jodi is lost in her own idea of perfection and pretty much delusional, and Todd gets pulled from pillar to post due to his own spinelessness. All of which made it pretty engrossing - although it took a while for the actual climax of the plot, I was never bored or frustrated - rather I was completely intrigued by some very complex and difficult characters.
I know that some readers have to find something redeemable in the difficult characters, but there are few good characteristics in either Jodi or Todd, nor in any of the secondary characters. Both are rather closed off from the world, so there are only a handful of others to detract from their spotlights.
The Silent Wife is engagingly written - I could definitely feel the currents under the still waters of the characters, and it’s a story that’s incredibly easy to get lost in, and have that feeling of seeing an imminent crash - it’s hard to watch, but it’s harder to look away.