Book Review: The Wife by Meg Wolitzer


(Note: This review was composed on February 24th, 2019, prior to the Oscars.)

Tonight is the Oscars, and this year Glenn Close is nominated for her performance in the feature film The Wife. Upon hearing that this film was adapted from a novel of the same name, I had to read it and see whether her performance lives up to the hype.

The Wife is the story of Joan Castleman, the wife of a famous author who has just won one of the literary world's most prestigious prizes. The couple travel to Helsinki in order to accept the award, and along the way Joan reminisces upon her marriage to Joe and the consequences of their relationship upon not only their family but also their careers and how these choices have led to where they are today. Through flashbacks we discover that it is Joan, not Joe, who is the literary genius; she wrote every one of his award-winning novels, and allowed him to take the writing credit. Meanwhile, while he takes all of the glory, she is pushed to the side, becoming the invisible wife in the background. By the end of the novel, Joan asserts herself to Joe and reveals her true feelings. The ending is devastating and very sad, especially for Joan.

It is easy to see why this movie was made this past year: Wolitzer's story seamlessly fits into the Time's Up Movement that has been sweeping the headlines. The story of a woman who is put down and repressed by her domineering husband, a woman who finally has the courage to stand up and say enough, is what the movement has been about for the past few years. Joan's voice throughout the story is palpable, and her truthfulness about her feelings and the events that led up to the climactic ending give Joan a sense of rage and anger that completely justifies her explosion of emotions at the end of the novel. No one blames her for her feelings once they hear her story, but I find her resolute feelings at the end of the novel a bit of a letdown. I was hoping she would take her credit and become the star she deserved to be, but instead Wolitzer takes a different approach.  She also creates relatable characters beyond Joe and Joan, such as Nathaniel Bone, who is trying to discover the truth behind Joe's success and give Joan the credit she deserves. The character of Joe is very one-dimensional- the floundering writer who finds a way to get success and become a pompous, arrogant, self-centered husband to his long-suffering wife. I found Wolitzer's writing style a bit tiring after a while, and the constant flashing back and forth made the novel a bit harder to follow.

I enjoyed this book; however, with one of it's central characters so unlikeable and the other not asserting herself until late in her life (and the novel), it didn't quite live up to my expectations. I found the movie adaptation much better, and see why Glenn Close is poised to win her first Oscar.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2


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