Cover image for The good wife strikes back
Title:
The good wife strikes back
Author:
Buchan, Elizabeth.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2004.

©2003
Physical Description:
304 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780670032808
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

This insightful novel, from the author of 'Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman', is about the true meaning of marriage.


Author Notes

Elizabeth Buchan was born in Guildford, Surrey, England. She attended the University of Kent at Canterbury in the 1970's and earned a double degree in English and History. She began working as a blurb writer for Penguin Books in 1974. She did this for 15 years and then went on to become a Fiction Editor at Random House in 1989. After the publication of her third novel, she became a full-time writer. Her novel, Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman, has been made into a television film for CBS. She was the eighteenth elected Chairman of the Romantic Novelists' Association from 1995 - 1997. Her title Separate Beds made The New York Times Best Seller List for 2011.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For 20 years, Fanny Savage has been the perfect wife to her MP husband, Will. She has survived the long weeks alone while Parliament is in session and raised their beautiful daughter, Chloe, largely on her own. But as Chloe prepares to leave for university, Fanny feels stirrings of discontent. She misses the life she gave up for her husband and resents Will and his career for what seem to be ever-increasing demands on her. When Will's political life goes into overdrive after a rumor circulates that he is being considered for Exchequer, it causes a crisis in their marriage, and Fanny takes off for Italy. The story of the wife who subordinates her dreams to those of her husband is hardly a new one, but Buchan's note-perfect observations on marriage and its uncertain rewards have a revealing freshness. Like Allison Pearson (I Don't Know How She Does It BKL S 1 02), Buchan exposes the obstinacy of old-fashioned expectations within a "modern" marriage, and does so with compassion and humor. --Meredith Parets Copyright 2003 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

When Fanny, 23, first lays eyes on Will, 28, he is making a speech in his bid for a seat in Parliament. They fall in love instantly, and this latest novel by Buchan (Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, etc.) records the parallel 19-year trajectories of their marriage and Will's political career, the private and the public. Buchan crafts beautiful sentences, which she stacks in airy, digestible paragraphs; yet the novel fails to convey the excitement of the events in Fanny's consciousness that constitute the real plot. She wrestles from first to last page in service of a single question: what exactly does it mean to be good? Fanny wishes to be not just the titular good wife but also a good mother to 18-year-old Chloe; a good daughter to her fiery wine-merchant Italian refugee father, Alfredo; and a good sister-in-law to the alcoholic Meg, who seems to lurk in every doorway. Fanny must also please her husband's political party leaders by appearing in skirts of the correct length and avoiding all substantive talk at state dinners, and she feels duty-bound to reach out to the mother, Sally, who abandoned her at age three to run off to America. Yet these relationships, which constitute the substance of the novel, have scant weight. Even when Fanny makes an impulsive trip to Italy, the story fails to ignite. Buchan's fans will still find much to admire in this thoughtful, intelligent effort, but will hope the author's next springs more vividly to life. (Jan.) Forecast: Viking is attempting to build on the success of Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman by bringing Buchan to the U.S. for a 12-city author tour. Enthusiasm for this novel may be more muted, but Buchan's name recognition should continue to grow. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Perfect wife Fanny Savage-married to a politician, of course-has the savage desire for a little change. The fictional counterpart of Ann Gerhart's The Perfect Wife (see below)? (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1 It is a truth universally acknowledged that one personís happiness is frequently bought at the expense of anotherís. My husband Will, a politician to his little toe, did not entirely get the point. He maintained that sacrifices in the cause of the common good were sufficient in themselves to make anyone happy. And since Will had sacrificed a significant slice of his family life to pursue his ambitions as, first, a promising MP, then a member of the Treasury Select Committee, then minister, andó latterlyóas one who was tipped to be a possible Chancellor of the Exchequer, it followed that he should have been supremely happy. I think he was. But was I? Not a question, perhaps, that a good wife should ask. On our nineteenth wedding anniversary, Will and I promised each other to be normal. To this end, Will carried me off to the theater, ordered champagne, kissed me lovingly and proposed the toast: ìTo married life.î The play was Ibsenís A Dollís House , and the production had excited attention. Although I could see that he was aching with tiredness, Will sat very still and upright in the seat, not even relaxing when the lights went dim. An upright back was part of the training he had imposed on himself never to let down his guard in public. Although I am better than I used to be, I am still laggardly in that department. It is so tempting to slump, hitch up my skirt and laugh when my sense of the ridiculous is tickledóand there was much in our life that was ridiculous. Politicians, ambassadors, constituents, coffee mornings, chicken suppers, state occasions...a wonderful, colorful caboodle replete with the ambitious and the innocent, the failures and the successes. Of necessity, Will laughed with circumspectionóso much so that, once, I accused him of having lost the ability through lack of use. There was only a tiny hint of a smile on his lips when he explained to me that one small error of attention could undo years of work. I sneaked a look at him from under eyelids that still stung from the morningís regular date with the beauty salon. Dyed eyelashes were a necessity because, when I do laugh, my eyes water. In the early part of Willís career, when I was being scrutinized and weighed and measured from head to foot by sharp eyes in the constituency, Mannochie, Willís watchful and faithful political agent, had been forced to whisper discreetly, ìTrain tracks, Mrs. S,î which meant my mascara had smudged. There was no option but to laugh off that one and whisk myself to the nearest mirror for a quick repair job. This was part of the bargain struck between Will and me. In short, to look good as the ministerís wife was to be good. Dressed in pale, shimmery blue, Nora made her entrance onto the stage and her husband asked anxiously, ìWhatís happened to my little songbird?î Will reached over for my hand, the left one, which bore his wedding ring and the modest ruby we had chosen together. It was small because, newly engaged and glowing with love at the prospect of shared happiness and mutual harmony, I had not wished him to spend too much money on me. Hindsight is a great thing, and I have come to the conclusion that modesty is wasted when it comes to jewelry. The touch of his hand was unfamiliar, strange almost, but I had grown used to that, too, and it was not significant. Beneath the unfamiliarity, Will and I were connected by our years of marriage. That was indisputable. At the end of the play, still in her pale blue, Nora declared, ìI donít believe in miracles any longer.î The sound of the front door opening and closing as she left the house was made to sound like a prison gate clanging shut. Someone in the audience gave a little cheer. It echoed above the perfectly groomed heads in the stalls, and there was a rustle of collective embarrassment at this demonstration of female solidarity. When Parliament sat, Will lived in London during the week, in a mansion block in Westminster and it was London where he did his deals in the Membersí tearoom, and struck alliances. In the old days, he came down to Stanwinton at weekends to nurse his constituency and his family, in that order, and I came up to London infrequently. Now that Chloe, our daughter, was eighteen, I was free to come up to London most weeks, but tonight we were driving home. I watched the cold, eerie city lights give way to the shadows of the suburbs. At home, I often played the game of not-turning-on-the-light-until-the-very-last-minute. I loved that moment of transition between light and dark, and the textures of light and shade. I had learned that if I remained quite still something surprising might swim up out of the spaces in my head. Sometimes only a fleeting thought. Sometimes a revelation or a conclusion. Its chief element was of surprise and I found myself increasingly craving the delight of discovery. It was the moment to consider peace, happiness, expectation,...but, lately, I suppose, to reflect on a certain, creeping restlessness and a growing sense that it was time for a change. Will cleared his throatóI recognized the signalóand began to talk about his project of the moment: the controversial European initiative to tax anyone with a second car. ìThereís no question, but we have to do something before the world chokes. We canít stand by and do nothing; we must show that we mean what we say.î He turned. ìFanny? Are you listening?î ìOf course,î I said. ìLook at the road, Will, not at me.î ìWell?î But I was thinking of the days when my energy had been devoted to Willís political life and objectives and wondering why I did not feel the same. It was not as though we were old. I still loved Will, although sometimes ripples of irritation and exasperation made me forget I didóbut that was marriage. Our life still held many possibilities. ìFanny...? Do you agree with what I am doing?î ìI donít think it stands much of a chance,î I replied. ìI donít think people always want to be told what is good for them.î ìSo Iím on my own on this one?î he said with the tone of one well used to arguing a case. ìFair enough.î An hour or so later, he nosed the car into the drive, unsnapped his seat belt and reached for the red box filled with papers, which required attention, that was never far from a ministerís side. ìI hope you enjoyed the evening.î He hefted the box onto his knee and added, ìWeíve made it Fanny, havenít we? Nineteen years...î I felt a sudden, intense disquiet. Or was it bewilderment? Where had those years gone? One of the saints, I think it was Theresa, wrote that the soul has many rooms. So does a life, and a marriage. Motherhood, too, and I had been curious to shine a light into each one. But having struggled through the muffling intimacies of being a wife and a mother, I was now asking: Which room was mine alone? Into which still, private room could I retreat? I smiled at him. ìIt was a lovely evening.î Then I leaned over and kissed him. When we let ourselves into the house, I realized that Iíd made the mistake, unlike Nora, of continuing to believe in miracles. The commotion that greeted usóMeg shouting and Sacha, her son, cajolingómeant only one thing. Willís sister had been drinking. ìWhy?î I murmured. ìWhy now? Sheís been off it for months.î Willís face had tightened into the expression of frozen distress that I knew so well and dreaded. ìIíll deal,î I said. ìYou go and check on your papers. Otherwise you wonít get any sleep.î I pushed him gently in the direction of the study. ìGo.î I went down the passage that ran the width of the house and waited a moment or two at her door. The noises had stopped. ìSacha?î ìUpstairs, Fanny.î I found him in Megís bedroom, manhandling his motherís inert body onto the bed, and hastened to help. Meg was hunched on her side. I smoothed her hair back from her forehead. She was as fair as I was dark, and much smaller boned. ìHas she had a lot?î Sacha arranged her legs into a more comfortable position. ìIím not quite sure.î He added with an effort, ìSorry.î ìItís not your fault.î I bent down to retrieve a whiskey bottle from the floor. It was still three- quarters full. ìI donít think sheís had that much...î ìBut enough.î ìSheís been brilliant lately, and didnít touch a drop while you were away.î Sachaís nu-metal band was struggling to get off the ground, and he was frequently away traveling the circuit. He flinched and I could have kicked myself. ìIt isnít you. It isnít you coming back....Itís the time of year, or an unexpected bill oróî ìShe rang my father today. He wants to renegotiate the alimony. Thatís probably it.î ìYes. Thatís it.î Meg had never got over Rob walking out on her when Sacha was tiny. ìTalking to your father is always tricky for her.î ìI know,î he said. He spoke far too wearily for a twenty-four-year-old. I slid my arms around my surrogate son. He smelled so clean. He always did, however many smoky, drink- filled places heíd worked in. ìDonít despair.î ìI donít,î he lied. ìShall I sit with her?î Sacha propelled me toward the door. This was between him and his mother and, now that he was older, he tried to keep it that wayóbecause it was so terrible and so intimate. I turned to look at him. ìIt was only once, remember,î I said. ìThereís been months and months of nothing.î In Megís kitchen, her lost battle was marked out by a trail of half-empty coffee cups. The one by the phone was still full, and signaled the moment of defeat. ìI hate you for knowing when to stop,î she had once told me. I harvested the cups and washed them up, scrubbing angrily at their brown, scummy rims. Through the window, I watched a vixen slide along the darkened flower bed. She was thinner than a London fox. They say that foxes are safest in the city, but I wonder if they are plagued by a genetic memory of the past. Do they miss the smell of corn in high summer, the crispness of frosted grass? I left the mugs to drain and found Chloe slumped at the kitchen table beside a glass of apple juice. I bent over and kissed her. She smelled of shampoo and her soft cheeks were slippery with face cream. She rubbed her eyes. ìCouldnít really sleep,î she said. ìIs Aunt Meg OK?î I trod warily. Will and I had been clever enough to hide the worst of Megís excesses from our daughter. Chloe was still too young to be told the absolute truth, but too old to be lied to. ìFine.î She looked anxious and a little bewildered. With her fair hair and dark eyes, she was a smaller, infinitely more delicate version of Will. One day she would be beautiful and that promise gave me deep, unqualified pleasure. ìDid you and Dad enjoy the play?î ìIt was brilliant; we had a lovely evening.î She polished off the apple juice. ìItís nice that you two went out together.î ìDid you do all your homework?î She shrugged irritably. ìBrigitte stood guard and I told her to get lost... but I did it.î Brigitte was our temporary au pair-cum-housekeeper, who took her duties very seriously. ìTea?î She shook her head. ìBed, then.î I pulled her to her feet, hustled her upstairs and settled her. I hunkered down beside her and whispered, ìEverythingís fine.î Chloe closed her eyes. ìDo I really have to go to Pearl Verikerís funeral tomorrow?î ìDad says we must. No argument.î ìItís not fair,î Chloe hissed. ìJust because you have to do all these ghastly things, you make me as well.î ìGo to sleep.î I hovered for a minute or two outside her room. Poor Chloe. She would learn that every shared life, every separate life, has bloodstained patches and tattered remnants of compromise. Sometimes, too, the dull ache of small martyrdom. Will was already in bed and I slid in beside him. ìChloe woke up. Iíve tucked her back in.î ìGood.î He hesitated. ìIs she... is Meg all right?î ìSleeping.î ìWhat triggered her off do you think?î I thought about it. ìShe and Rob talked on the phone about money, but I suspect that it had something to do with our anniversary.î Our conversation went round and round on the subject of Meg. As it always did. Will scratched his head. ìI would give much to think that Meg was happy and sorted out.î He turned to me. ìShe has a lot to thank you for, Fanny. So do I.î My feelings for Meg could be ambivalent, but being thanked by Will was sweet. He stirred restlessly. ìWhat do you think is best, Fanny?î he said. ìDo you think we should arrange more help for her? Could you manage to do that?î ìI could, but it might be better if you could talk to her. Maybe she needs a bit of your attention.î He thought about this. ìI havenít got the time at the moment. But I will when I can. I promise.î I used to dream of a big, generous, blowsy household where children rustled and murmured in the bedroomsótwo, three, even four of them. And every night, I would do the rounds. ìThis is Millie,î I would say, smoothing fair tangles away from her face. ìThis is Arthur,î removing the thumb from his mouth. ìAnd this ...this one is Jamie, the terror.î But it had not happened that way. After Chloe there were no more babies. My body pulled and strained to obey my longings, but it could not do what I asked of it. Sometimes they haunt me, my nonchildrenóthose warm, sleeping, rosy bodies, the children-who-never- wereóand I listen out for them playing under the eaves. ìI donít mind,î Will said to me once. ìWe have Chloe, thatís enough. We look after her. I look after you. You look after me, Fanny. Be content, please .î ìDonít you mind at all?î I asked. He touched my cheek. ìI mind for you. I mind anything that hurts you.î Yet, as it turned out, my household was full, and we had been happy. First Chloe was born, and I was catapulted into the terror and mystery and exultation of a love that would never die. Then Meg came to live with us; Sacha too, after his sixteenth birthday. The au pairs came and went; the party workers slipped in and out, each leaving a ghostly imprint on the atmosphere, their rustles and murmurs dissolving into the general murmur of life. Excerpted from The Good Wife Strikes Back by Elizabeth Buchan All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.