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The Good Husband Hardcover – August 9, 1994

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 468 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1st edition (August 9, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345372433
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345372437
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,683,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Two oddly mismatched married couples are the focus of Godwin's (Father Melancholy's Daughter, LJ 2/1/91) powerful new novel. Magda Danvers, once a brilliant literary theorist, now a dying professor at a small private college, is married to "good husband" and former seminarian Francis Lake. "Frannie" devotedly attends to his beloved, impatient older wife while she is dying. Watching this with wonder is Alice, young wife of famous novelist Hugo, who is also teaching at the college. After a botched home birth, Alice and Hugo's baby has died, and their grief has sent the marriage into a frosty decline. Godwin's intensely drawn characters are vividly portrayed during the most intimate times of love, marriage, and death. The result is a winner.
--Ann H. Fisher, Radford P.L., Va.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

At the center of Godwin's complex novel of loss and mortality is the flamboyant, penetrating Magda Danvers. She was featured in Time 25 years ago as "the Dark Lady of Visions" when she published her doctoral research on visionary poets and prophets before she had defended it. Now 58 years old, a star professor at a college in upstate New York, Magda is taking her own "final examination" under the tutelage of ovarian cancer. At her side is her thoughtful but unreflective husband, Francis Lake, who left the seminary at age 21 to dedicate himself for nearly a quarter-century to Magda rather than to the Lord. As Magda's condition worsens, another grieving couple is drawn into her orbit: fiftyish southern novelist Hugo Henry, the college's writer-in-residence, and his second wife, Alice, formerly his editor, who have just lost their only child in a tragic home birth. Alice in particular has suffered far too many losses in her 34 years, yet she finds refuge in the Danvers-Lake household. Remarkably, Godwin's story is laced with humor, thanks to Magda's enduring wit and the idiocies of a number of her academic colleagues. A Book-of-the-Month Club featured selection, this subtle, moving meditation on the nature of intimacy and influence, and the differences between good matches and good mates, will have wide appeal. Mary Carroll

More About the Author

Gail Godwin is a three-time National Book Award finalist and the bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including Unfinished Desires, A Mother and Two Daughters, Violet Clay, Father Melancholy's Daughter, Evensong, The Good Husband, and Evenings at Five. She is also the author of The Making of a Writer: Journals, 1961--1963, the first of two volumes, edited by Rob Neufeld. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts grants for both fiction and libretto writing, and the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has written libretti for ten musical works with the composer Robert Starer. She lives in Woodstock, New York.

Customer Reviews

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See all 18 customer reviews
This is her 3 rd book I have read.
Kay hoey
Overall, Gail Godwin has conjured up an amazing cast of characters and masterfully woven them together.
Leyla Antonia Eraslan
I thought the book could have been written less wordy.
D. Lapenta

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
"The Good Husband" is the first work I have read by Gail Godwin and will not be the last. I found the book enlightening as well as pertinent. Godwin has a way of taking ordinary events and bringing a fresh, new perspective to them. For me, the novel seemed to be entertaining and at the same time, educational; designed to make a person think. I really appreciated being able to see death from Magda's perspective. I had never thought of death as a final examination. It was a revelation for me as I have had many people in my life die recently. Although some of them may not have viewed death from her perspective, it gave me a new outlook on the process. It also gave me a new perspective on life. I found the part about Francis' misericords very educational and captivating at the same time. I think that while I am in Europe, I will be visiting some cathedrals just to see for myself if they exist. Godwin must have put quite a bit of time and effort into researching the subject for it to be so detailed. I really appreciated being able to "educate" myself while at the same time "entertain" myself. While I enjoyed the entire novel, I think that the speech Hugo Henry gave on writing a novel was my favorite part. It was very clever of Godwin to weave Hugo's views, as an author, on writing a novel into her own novel. I realized how true it was when Hugo said, "If you get the beginning of your story right, it already contains the seed of its own ending. And if the ending's right, it succeeds in making the beginning inevitable"(410). I also loved how Hugo related a novel to a relationship. It seemed the perfect way for him to tell his wife, Alice, that he realized it was over for them.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Leyla Antonia Eraslan on October 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As far as I'm concerned, you can't possibly care about a book unless you care about the characters. The fabricated inhabitant of a novel's pages are the catalyst for the entire tale. Gail Godwin's The Good Husband is no exception, and is, in fact, a wonderful example of this premise. Godwin manages to create fully textured and sympathy evoking characters in a plot that, while wrought with tragedy, remains genuine.

The story circles around the slow death of Magda Danvers, a brilliant college professor suffering from cancer. Magda is a lively, feisty spirit who, even in her deterioration, is difficult not to like. Her sarcastic yet somehow warm ways draw us in as we watch her prepare for what she refers to as her "Final Examination." We find ourselves wishing that we could have known Magda before her illness. It would be very easy to let the demise of such a person become overly dramatic, sappy, soppy. However, like Magda herself, Godwin handles the death of Magda Danvers's with all the grace and dignity that can be mustered.

In fact, I find myself hurting more for poor, gentle Francis than the tough and tenacious Magda, who must care for his wife during the process of her death, an ordeal that is remarkably painful for them both. Looking in retrospect at the novel, I find that I would normally have been irritated by Francis's tireless, unending, persistence to the point of obsessed devotion, coupled with his repeated disintegration into tears in nearly every chapter. Instead, curiously enough, it only endears him to me. I feel sympathy for Francis to the point of being angry at the dying Magda for being so cross with the struggling man (I mean, sure she's dying, but does she have to yell at the poor man?).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Zachary Brown on October 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
"What next?" This common theme in Gail Godwin's The Good Husband seems to be fitting when you finish reading this articulate story of life, love, death, and everything that is encompassed within these complex experiences. The story focuses upon the lives of two professor/novelists (or should it be novelist/professors) and their spouses. The intricacy of every interaction, of how life and death can change one's mindset and of how love can be wrong, fade, or at least become skewed throughout a person's lifetime, with the interactions and cross-interactions of Magda Danvers, her husband Francis Lake, Hugo and Alice Henry make this novel go.

Magda Danvers and Francis Lake make an interesting pair; she is a pure academic whose mind never stops wondering or questioning, while he is a caretaker who emphasizes the physical, often overlooking the intellectual. During her dying months, Francis tends to all of Magda's needs, except the one that she really wants him to - her mind. Magda has no qualms about taking her frustration out on him about this, even though he always keeps the composure of a man of God, which he was once studying to be. At the beginning, you get the sense that the good husband is just a description of Francis; however, Magda makes a reference to her good husband as death. But, of course, this allusion is over Francis' head, just like all of her others.

At the same point that Magda Danvers is on her last leg, Hugo and Alice Henry lose their child during birth. The significance here lies in the fact that with this loss of child, so goes the loss of their relationship. However the question must be asked if they would have had a healthy birth of their child, could that have saved their marriage?
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