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The Poets' Wives Hardcover – 27 Feb 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (27 Feb. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408846462
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408846469
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2.8 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 837,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

He writes prose of gravity and grace ... Line for line, it is hard to think of a more skilful contemporary Irish novelist. He shares with John McGahern a refusal of cheap flamboyance, with Dermot Bolger a sense of suppressed fury . There is a Coetzeean accuracy to the writing (Joseph O'Connor, Guardian)

Recent years have seen an explosion of books about wives of famous men ... The Poets' Wives ... Is a fine contribution to this genre ... The Poets' Wives is a marvellous triptych: lyrical, respectful of creativity but also sharply sceptical (David Grylls, Sunday Times )

Sparse, lyrical and yet clear-headed prose leaves no room for false notes, nostalgia or self-serving mythologies. One of the quiet men of Irish writing, he also possesses one of its truest voices and has built up a deeply impressive oeuvre without fuss or pyrotechnics ... infused with the depth of character and emotion that are hallmarks of his work as a novelist of enormous sensitivity (Dermot Bolger Irish Mail on Sunday)

Marvellous (Sunday Times Must Reads)

Intriguing and impressive ... With its stylistic felicity ... its concern with integrity and with upholders of humane, and humanistic values, The Poets' Wives displays without ostentation its author's resourcefulness and versatility (Patricia Craig, Times Literary Supplement)

An outstanding novel, written in luminous accessible prose, thoroughly enjoyable and much deeper even than the sum of its excellent parts (Éilís Ní Dhuibhne, Irish Times)

Beautifully wrought (Holly Williams Independent on Sunday)

Intensely evocative, thought-provoking (Anita Sethi Observer)

Book Description

From award-winning writer David Park, an absorbing account of the lives of the women most important to three poets: William Blake, Osip Mandlestam and an imagined contemporary Irish poet

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Three husbands with three wives united by loss and by the responsibility of their husbands' legacies. Part biographical and part fiction the line blurs between both to create an utterly compelling read. The ambitious plot weaves back and forth across centuries and circumstances and leads to a final conclusion set in contemporary Ireland which steps beyond (if that was possible) Park at his best.

I reread the opening chapter many, many times overwhelmed by the beauty of the language, at the scene which was being set by Catherine Blake and remained captivated by the power of Park's words and the worlds he created.

The bravery and courage of Park's women will remain with me for a very long time and if I had to choose one word to describe the book it would be mesmerising. The novel is both poetic and deeply humane.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful book. Three stories built around three women, two who really were the wives of well-known poets, and one fictional woman character. All three live the life of a poet's wife - with all the contradictions that implies between art and life - from making sure that there is enough money to put food on the table, to accepting that, in Catherine Blake's words, they 'possess part of him, but only part.' All three characters make emotional and physical sacrifices for their partners' creativity, and all three of them explore what this means to them in terms of what Nadezhda Mandelstam refers to as ' the enduring intimacy between man and wife that is called marriage'.

It's important to say that this is a work of fiction, even though two of the characters are based on facts. In this respect, it reminded me of
A S Byatt's work - in particular, her novel 'Possession' and her two novellas published as 'Angels and Insects' - in which she takes factual events and factual characters, together with fictional characters, and weaves them into compelling tales of imagination. David Parks does the same, in writing that is both lyrical and intensely moving in parts.

On a purely personal note, I loved the rich texture of the context each story is set in - art and poetry around Catherine Blake, Russian history and politics during the Stalin period around Nadezhda Mandelstam, contemporary Northern Ireland around Lydia. But most of all, I was taken with the authenticity of the women's voices as they relate their stories - this was their reality, and they lived it to the end of their partners' lives.
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By Susannah B (Susie B) TOP 100 REVIEWER on 27 Feb. 2014
Format: Hardcover
David Park's latest novel is presented in the form of three linked novellas focusing on three women, each of whom is married to a poet. We first meet Catherine Blake, the wife of visionary poet, engraver and painter William Blake, who was largely unappreciated during his lifetime and thought to be suffering from madness; our second heroine is Nadezhda Mandelstam, wife of the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, friend to Boris Pasternak and Anna Akhmatova, whose poem against Stalin cost him his liberty and his life; and our third wife is Lydia, a fictional character, married to a fictional contemporary Irish poet.

All three wives, although living in different centuries and countries, have similar dilemmas to cope with, and all three have to make sacrifices for their husbands' art. Each wife also has to deal with certain levels of infidelity and loss of faith, and each wife survives her husband and thus becomes the custodian of their husbands' work - Nadezhda learning Osip's poems by heart to ensure their survival. Beautifully written, lyrical and sensitively portrayed, this a novel to appreciate for its language and sentiment rather than its pace and plot.

4 Stars.

If you read and enjoy this, you might be interested in:Winter by Christopher Nicholson, which focuses on the poet Thomas Hardy and his wife.
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By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 9 May 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of David Park - I have read all his previous works and loved them - but somehow The Poet's Wives had not appealed. I finally bit the bullet, bought it and read it. I should have listened to my instincts.

See, the thing is, I don't really get poetry. It's just never interested me. So books about poets - or their widows - is unlikely to float my boat.

This is really three separate novellas. The first, Catherine, tells the story of William Blake's wife who seems smitten with jealousy when Blake looks to hired help to supplement Catherine's inadequate housekeeping. Then we have Nadezhda, the widow of Osip Mandelstam, victim of Stalin's purges in the 1930s. And finally, we have Lydia, widow of a fictional and mediocre poet who neglected his family.

Each of the stories is well written at the surface level. Each sentence is beautifully composed, presumably drawing from all sorts of poetic references. But when viewed from a distance, it feels flat. There is not enough in each story to keep the reader going. The characters never feel fully formed; they are short story characters inhabiting too many pages. The Mandelstam story, in particular, was familiar having been told previously in Robert Littell's more compelling The Stalin Epigram. In this telling, it was chopped into chunks many years apart, scrambled into random order - which can sometimes be a sign of a story that is not strong enough to carry itself on its own merits.

As a collection of three stories, there seems to be a common theme of poets being narcissistic, self-absorbed people who treat their families with disdain. Somehow, their art provides sufficient justification in their own minds for treating other people badly.
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