Sunday, January 31, 2016
HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE by Emma Chapman
This chilling, tension-filled debut by British writer Emma Chapman will find readers unable to stop reading and pondering many questions. The setting is a small Scandinavian village where Marta Bjornstad lives with Hector, her school teacher husband who is 20 years older than she. Apparently Hector had rescued her when she was orphaned at the age of 18. Her situation at that time was deemed desperate, although any details of her condition were lost to Marta. Amnesia? They married despite the disapproval of Matilda, Hector’s controlling mother whose wedding gift to Marta was a guide to married life entitled How To Be A Good Wife. The wisdom of this small volume seemed to lie in being subservient to your husband and acquiescing to his every wish.
We meet Marta when she has stopped taking her medication, started smoking, is suffering from empty-nest syndrome and experiencing visions. Her only child, Kylan, has grown and gone to work in the city where he becomes engaged to Katya, a young woman who for some reason reminds Marta of herself when she was younger.
Her vision is usually that of a girl, apparently a ballet dancer, who she sees not only in dreams but in actual time as well. The girl seems to beckon to Marta, wanting to tell her something. It is at this point that the reader begins to wonder if these visions are actually suppressed memories, but who and why?
In addition to being an accomplished writer, Chapman has created a compelling story of the effects of trauma and the sometimes debilitating influences of marriage. I eagerly await her next novel.