The World's Wife Paperback – 3 Sep 2010
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Elvis's wimpled sister rocks on in a convent she calls Graceland; Nancy Sinatra gets out her boots made for walking with the Kray Sisters; Mrs Midas misses the touch of her now dangerous golden-handed husband; and Queen Herod decrees the killing of each mother's son to protect her baby daughter in Carol Ann Duffy's startling new collection The World's Wife. Doubling is one of the most common themes--and stylistic ploys--of Western culture and thought, and the concept around which Duffy has ingeniously organised this profoundly playful collection. Mrs Midas, Mrs Aesop, Mrs Darwin, Frau Freud, Anne Hathaway, Mrs Rip Van Winkle, the Kray Sisters; these are some of the wives, and sisters, whose stories are told. These inventive, metaphorically precise poems offer much more, however, than just a recovery of the historical voice of her (supposedly) silenced indoors. Duffy dexterously rewrites Judao-Christian and classical mythologies, subverts fairytale and zestfully reinterprets the more modern myths of Darwin and Freud.
Humour is the abundant keynote of this accessible collection. Mrs Rip Van Winkle enjoys the freedom to travel and paint allowed by her husband's permanent slumbers, "Until the day / I came home with pastel of Niagara / and he was sitting up in bed rattling Viagra." Frau Freud analyses her over-exposure to "ding-a-ling, member and jock, / of todger and nudger and percy and cock," and confesses with irony to being, "as au fait with Hunt-the Salami / as Ms M. Lewinsky." Mrs Aesop groans about her husbands unstoppable garrulousness: "By Christ, he could bore for Purgatory," and Mrs Darwin evolves the following summary her husband's research:
"7 April 1852
Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him--
Something about that Chimpanzee over there
reminds me of you."
The World's Wife throws open the windows on the stuffy annals of historical myth and breezes through some of its highlights with a sense of revelry and laugh-out-loud observation. In this wry take on the historical ubiquity of heterosexual coupledom that permeates so many cultural myths, Duffy has separated vibrant women from the shadows of their more famous husbands and brothers, and divorced them from the distortions of historical silence. --Rachel Holmes --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
'Sparkes with wit, intelligence and an impressive lightness of touch, while drawing on some weighty emotional experiences -- Independent
A melange of history lesson, fairy-tale and modern-day domestic tragedy -- Scotsman
These poems vibrate with intense colloquialisms, physicality, energy, freshness and cheek -- Sunday Telegraph
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Top Customer Reviews
The World's Wife is her most accessible collection to date - a collection of delightful parody tales from the world's most important (and least recognised) women. Before you get too enthralled by the humour, take a look at her style - she's precise, accurate and at times, stunning. If this floats your boat, try the Selected Works for a more rounded view of her poetry (much of which is less light hearted and lyrical than this offering).
There's a playful, humorous tone to the poems, and I enjoyed reading them on a quiet afternoon recently in a sun-drenched beer garden. A lot of them had the same basic premise, of a wife wryly mocking her husband's posturing and self-aggrandisement, and this got a bit repetitive after a while. My favourite poems were those that truly brought a new twist to a familiar story, imputing new and more interesting motives to the characters, as in the Delilah example already mentioned, or my favourite of all, Queen Herod. In this poem, we learn that it wasn't the King who ordered the killing of all first-born male children after all, but the Queen, who does it to protect her own newborn daughter: "No man, I swore, will make her shed one tear." I found it a powerful and poignant reworking, and loved the last few lines:
We do our best,
we Queens, we mothers,
mothers of Queens.
We wade through blood
for our sleeping girls.
We have daggers for eyes.
Behind our lullabies,
the hooves of terrible horses
thunder and drum.
Each of Duffy's poems is a version of history, myth or legend, but from the female perspective (hence the title). So, for example, instead of Shakespeare being the figure of attention, Ann Hathaway becomes the voice for one of the poems. This results in a lot of the humour coming from poking fun at male figures singularly and collectively (I think all women would be able to imagine men they know in quite a few of the poems). Because of this, I felt that the humour was very dark, in places the humour seemed morbid, as you find yourself laughing at things which are actually quite disturbing if you think more about it, ('The Kray Sisters' is one example). This dark humour, I think, is probably due to Duffy dealing with serious issues such as violence and murder, and these occurrences are all the more shocking when they come from a woman.
The only small problem I had with the collection as a whole, was that I felt after a while the poems just seemed more and more anti-men. Don't get me wrong, I understand why Duffy has written them the way she has, but it does make you wonder how a collection by a male poet may be received, if the poems took the same tone towards women.
Duffy chose to read four poems from The World's Wife collection. From the very first line of the very first poem Duffy read --- a tale from the perspective of Mrs. Midas, wife of the man with the golden touch (true, it was Midas, not the Goldfinger that Shirley Bassey belted it out about...) --- I was hooked. Bought the book immediately.
This collection is thought-provoking and funny, but also thought-provoking and remarkably touching. Duffy uses language beautifully. Her poetry is accessible.
I've already given this to a dear friend as a gift, and am thinking of about seven other people who will ADORE this collection.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm not a big poetry person - so this wasn't my cup of tea. I didn't really care for the poems although the themes were interesting takes on fairy tales.Published 1 month ago by Mediaevalgirl
Nicely observed views of events in history and legend from the point of view of the male subjects wife. Amusing and thought provoking from a feminist perspective. Recommended.Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
Beautifully presented book and arrived within the time expected. I've marked it down simply because the poems were not quite what I'd been expecting. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Joanna
The World's Wife is a fantastic tongue-in-check collection - one of Duffy's best. It's also a social commentary. A great additon to any poetry colllection.Published 8 months ago by Littlelise