The Wife is the fifth novel by the American author Meg Wolitzer. Published in 2003, it is back in the limelight thanks to the film of the same name that is hitting theater all over the world in this period.
The story revolves around Joe and Joan. He is a world-famous writer, she is his devoted wife. The two are going to Helsinki, Finland, where Joe will receive the notorious Helsinki Prize, a very prestigious award from the Finnish Academy and second only to the Nobel Prize (but which in reality does not exist). For Joe this is a dream, for Joan a nightmare. Everything that happens around them will force her to cover her entire life as a wife and to reconsider all the wrong choices she has made, to which, however, there is no remedy.
Let’s start the review immediately.
The Wife is a fantastic novel. Meg Wolitzer perfectly frames the profile of an elderly woman who reconsiders all the choices made in her life, including marriage. Joan, the protagonist, is a very multifaceted character. It is strong and determined, intelligent, but at the same very fragile and generous. She is very willing to put aside her talent to allow her husband to have all the spotlight on him, despite her writing much better than him. He is available to forgive him everything, even betrayals, but he does not forget them. All this tells us a lot about her and her married life.
And then there’s Joe, another great character, even if narrated from Joan’s point of view. Wolitzer fully demonstrates what it means to be a writer by being able to represent very well a man character, despite being a woman, praise that even by itself in the novel, given that Joe is often acclaimed for his way of representing women in books.
In addition to two very strong and well-characterized supporting characters, The Wife has a great story, much less trivial than one expects. In the novel one digs into the couple life of Joe and Joan. The woman tells us all their moments, from their meeting to the great victory of the Helsinki Prize, even if not in chronological order, but it is not important, because Wolitzer is so good that there is no problem reconstructing a temporal thread. One sees their happiest moments, the saddest ones and dig deep into their most murky secrets, because marriage is an agreement, and Wolitzer emphasizes it.
Although the story is very beautiful, it is definitely second to the author’s style. Meg Wolitzer writes from God. It has a very refined style and also high, but not artificial. The book flows a lot and more laws, the more you want to continue reading to know everything about the protagonists. I completely fell in love with Wolitzer’s prose, even though it’s the author’s first novel I read. But I loved his way of telling, how all the nodes came to comb, and his mastery of handling secrets, although some had already been revealed to us, but without understanding them.
The Wife is also a very deep and direct novel, especially for the themes. The two prevailing love and success, and Wolitzer chooses to talk about it personifying them with the two protagonists. Joan is love, she is madly in love with her husband, and this love makes her so blind as to push her far beyond the limits of tolerance. Joe, on the other hand, is the success, he would do everything for it, he is blinded, and precisely the success pushes him to do things well beyond the limit of tolerance. The final was very successful, where both win and both lose.
The criticism of masculinity is accentuated and also the way in which the feminist movement deals. Meg Wolitzer is frank, direct and I like that very much.
The Wife is a great novel and a literary advice I give to you all. A very important reading, especially in an era like this.
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