Monday, March 16, 2020

Book Review: THE WIVES

Title: The Wives
Author: Tarryn Fisher
Publisher: HQ
Pages: 352
My GoodReads Rating: 

The book is written in the first person past tense PoV of one of the wives. She introduces herself as Thursday, and the other two wives as Monday and Tuesday, women known by the days on which their husband, Seth, visits them. We don’t realise until much later that Thursday is actually her name.

Her husband visits her on Thursday evening, and by Friday morning, he is gone. Gone either to work or to one of his other wives, the one she knows as Tuesday and the youngest one, who she refers to as Monday.

Her mother taught her that cooking was the only good way to be a wife. And so Thursday became my mother: doting, yielding, spread-eagle emotionally and sexually. But her best attempts cannot hold a husband who has spread himself thin among three women.

At first, Thursday is content to have her husband on Thursdays alone, content to feel no curiosity about the other two women. Then one day, she finds in Seth’s pocket a doctor’s bill in the name of Hannah Ellington with her address on the bill, and all of a sudden Thursday can’t stop herself from wanting to learn more.

The knowledge that Hannah is pregnant, while Thursday, who has had a painful miscarriage and can never hope of conceiving again, is a painful one. Thursday can’t help but feel insecure at being upstaged in Seth’s affections by Hannah who is younger, prettier and most importantly, pregnant.

But the act of finding out more becomes dangerous. When Thursday meets Hannah and finds suspicious bruises on her body, she wonders if she is missing something. When Seth learns that Thursday has been satisfying her curiosity, he isn’t happy at all.

I felt sorry for Thursday. She has no close relationships she can count on. Her parents are alienated from her. Best friend Anna seems happy to psychoanalyse her over the phone. For the most part, Thursday is left to her own devices. She keeps herself busy in her work, as a nurse, but the emotional deprivation is strong.

Thursday is remarkably insightful about the psychology of women. That’s how women are, right? Always wondering about each other – curiosity and spite curdling together in little emotional puddles.

No one tries that hard to keep their husband unless they’ve already lost him.

She knows just as well about the dynamics between the sexes. Experience has taught me that you can drag a man’s eyes if you move the right way.

There was so much about her PoV that makes us warm to her. Her observations, for one. What did people do before emojis? It seems like the only reasonable way to lighten a loaded sentence.

And most importantly, her honesty which shines through her words.

The most telling and ironical quote is this one: That’s what love does. It gives you a sense of well-being – like bad things will evaporate.

I liked this book right up to the end, when it lost me on account of its twist ending. Up to that point, I liked it only because of Thursday, and so the ending came out like a bolt from nowhere. It was totally unexpected and not in a good way.

The thing with a twist is that the reader must feel that the signs were all there, how did I miss them? I didn’t feel like that at all here. The setup sought to prove one point, and then what happened was quite another. The twist left several questions unanswered.

Most of the characters were unlikeable. This includes Seth, the other two wives, Thursday’s parents. The sister we never meet doesn't give us any cause to think of her. The only other character I liked was Lauren, the head nurse at Thursday’s hospital who shows sympathy and true friendship to Thursday.

The most glaring reason for my dislike of this book was the insensitive manner in which it seemed to approach the issue of mental illness. This book dropped from an It-was-okay rating to a Did-not-like, thanks to the end.

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