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3.9 out of 5 stars
28
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 11 September 2005
Entertaining and easy to read, this is a book to relax with and to enjoy. The blurb compares the author to "a tonic" who should be bottled; I couldn't agree more! I felt that in her company I'd visited a therapist to hammer out some of my hang-ups about life and men; and then gone on to indulge myself further in an evening of gossip with a good friend and a bottle of wine! If this sounds like chick-lit, it isn't - its so much MORE! You won't have to feel guilty about reading Meg Wolitzer, because her book is intelligent and profound. She writes perceptively and humourously, with a delicious enjoyment of language. Highly recommended.
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on 25 September 2015
I really, really enjoyed this and was surprised by how it got to me. It tells the story of Joan Castleman, wife to the popular novelist Joe Castleman and opens as they travel to Helsinki to accept a literary prize in the twilight of their marriage. On the plane, going over their relationship, Joan decides it's time to leave Joe and begins to unpick the many threads of their unsatisfying marriage that have left her exhausted and ultimately a supporting character in his life. Joan jumps from the current to episodes in their past that cover how they met, various infidelities, births, tears and death. Along the road, Joan seems to have sacrificed her own happiness to support her brilliant husband who, in return, glides through life devoting himself only to his own genius. They have children, who feel abandoned by him and each demonstrate their dissatisfaction in their own way. Joan's defence of Joe has worn down over the years and is less and less convincing as they both settle into pensionable age and Joan's quiet dignity begins to give rise to an almost resigned feeling of dissatisfaction and her sense of personal authority is now no longer satisfied by holding the couple and family together.
The prose style is lovely and occasionally really affecting. It jumps around through their lives together without ever feeling as though the author is hiding anything or pushing the reader in any particular direction. The style seems to get more confident as the book goes on, reflecting Joan's decision taking shape as she rakes over past happenings. It also has a cracking ending that left me entirely heartbroken and frustrated, not with the novel or the author, but with the circumstances. It really pricked my sense of natural justice. Beyond that I felt (I'm a bloke by the way) like I got a real insight into the lives of women. The expectations placed on women, the manner in which they are expected to abdicate personal authority and ambition for either a family or just a man is something I sort of accepted as fact but hadn't thought deeply about. This novel made me think a great deal about the subject and how equal relationships really are.
I'd really recommend this, to men specifically. It's well written, funny and smart and will give you an insight into the deal that couples enter into and how the expectations are different depending on whether or not you have dangly bits. I'm now off to read more Meg Wolitzer, she's really good!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 23 September 2015
This book seems to be sold as humorous and to be packaged as almost chick lit. This does the author and the story no credit and may lead people to expect something that the book cannot deliver. This is very much a commentary on gender relationships during the late twentieth century and it is full of wry observations which will especially resonate with anyone alive during the time.

Joan Castleman is on her way to Helsinki with her husband Joe who has won a major literary prize for his writing. She realises on the trip that she no longer wants to be with him despite all their years of marriage. Most of the rest of the book is a description of their life together since they first met when he was the professor and she was the student. It becomes apparent that Joan has lost her sense of self and her meaning as an individual becoming just "the wife". What the book shows us is how society has encouraged this but also how Joan has colluded in her own loss of identity. If she cannot stand Joe now it is her own fault because she is responsible for allowing him to develop this ego.

As we recap Joan's life we see other women that she bumps into from time to time and are offered alternative ways in which she could have behaved. Both Joan and the reader can see that in a patriarchal society with women enabling men's excluding behaviour she possibly didn't have many options. By the end we realise that Joan is never going to be able to break free from the contract which she willingly, though naively, entered into with her husband when she married. This makes the book sound very heavy but it isn't - it is a light and enjoyable read with lots of period detail. In the end, however, this is a sad story - a regret for the lives of a generation of women.
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on 1 January 2015
An incredibly satisfying novel - I literally read it at one sitting. Told from the point of view of the wife of a bestselling novelist, the reader is shown more and more of the couple's differing views of their relationship, as layers are peeled away from their public personas. Deceptively simple prose, a clever insight into a long term relationship that satisfies only one of the couple. And a secret revealed as the marriage unravels. Can't wait to read more of her fiction now: I also loved 'The Interestings'.
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on 13 November 2014
This is the story of a woman who helps her writer husband become famous, while he gets all the credit and enjoys the trappings of fame, sleeps around, etc, etc, (can't say much more without giving too much away).
It's well written and quite amusing, though not as great as the blurb, and some other reviews here, would suggest. The humour quickly fades after the opening chapters, and without it there's not much left. Certainly not 'already a classic', as it says on the cover of my edition.
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on 25 April 2007
This book is brilliant. It is the story of a woman looking back over her marriage in middle age, the choices and compromises that she made.

It is totally let down by the cover, which makes it look like chick-lit and it definitely is not that. Firstly, it is extremely well-written, without ever being hard going. Secondly, there is nothing saccharin or sentimental about this book. However, it certainly geared at a female audience.

Sadly overlooked, this book deserves a wider readership. One for women of any age.
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on 29 June 2011
I have never read a book which expresses how I feel as much as this book does. Although I am not married to a famous author, I am a wife to someone who make a decent living for his family and a mum to 2 small children. My life probably seems quite happy from outside, there is nothing really lacking apart from my own career, and what I have (English husband, children, my own home in England) is actually what I wanted in my youth. Then, why do I feel so frustrated?
The book is a honest portrait of marriage and family life, where the wife "makes it happen" and "keeps it togehter". Nobody notices or appreciates much of what we wives do for husbands and children, but we do it anyway, for so little in return.
The plot is very good, keeps you interested, wanting to find out more and more. I am not disappointed by the ending at all, after all that is what we wives do in the end.
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on 1 June 2014
Joe and Joan Castleman are en route to Helsinki. Joe is thinking about the prestigious literary prize he will receive and Joan is plotting to leave him. I enjoyed this stylish novel about the literary rivalry of the sexes quite a bit, despite the feminism feeling more 50s than noughties throughout and the unsurprising reveal. It’s also good on the perils of graduating from other woman to second wife.
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on 20 October 2004
This is a really fantastic book but is totally let down by the cover. The publishers seem to have tried to make it look like a chick lit book when it's not. Which means that half the readers who would enjoy it will ignore it on the shelves. It's a serious read and beautifully written.
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on 14 October 2008
I agree with the previous reviewer that this would work better as a short story (and then it wouldn't matter so much that the end is so utterly predictable). It's a mildly interesting dissection of a long-standing marriage but somehow the sexual politics seem a bit old hat ... there can't be many young women today who would be quite so accommodating of monstrous male egos. In the end, I lost interest in the novel because the Wife had been such a terrible drip! I know it's supposed to be witty and tongue in cheek but for me the humour got weighed down by a heavy dose of Guardian wimmin-ish feminism.
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