A Reliable Wife
Algonquin Books (2009)
$14.95, 305 pages (paperback)
(You can find a description of the book here)
The cover is gorgeous. It evokes Gothicism, romanticism, works from the Bronte sisters. It was a delicious story, yet I was not as wowed as I thought I'd be.
I absolutely loved the moodiness of it: the stark contrasts of the cold, dark, desolate winters of Wisconsin and the warm, vibrant heat of Saint Louis. It captures perfectly the setting and tone of the book and the characters themselves.
All through the story, I was reminded of Jane Eyre and a bit of Wuthering Heights, both by the Bronte's. Ralph Truitt reminds me very much of Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre: A tyrant of a man, lonely, has a dark past concerning family/previous marriage (Truitt and Emilia/Rochester and Bertha). Even Catherine Land and Jane Eyre hold some similarities: both were poor, abandoned, abused.
A lot of the same themes run through each book-those of intense passion, social classes (rich/poor), the search for forgiveness/atonement/family life/home.
The theme of intense passion/sex=power is strong throughout A Reliable Wife. In fact, it's part of what drives the whole story. It's power to engulf, destroy, manipulate and to, eventually, in recognizing its toxicity leading them to something whole and pure.
Some things that lessened the wow factor: Of course Catherine would be connected to the son (Antonio) as lover. Not just any son, but the long-lost son who feels the need for revenge. In fact, has made it his life-long obsession. Of course the son dies tragically-by the hand of his own father (written very well, I might add). A Reliable Wife is a classic blueprint for the Gothic novel. I thought it was very well written overall, but wanted it to grab me just a little more and not let go.
Robert Goolrick's site for A Reliable Wife
Read an excerpt from the novel!!
AlgonquinBooks on Twitter