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The Spare Wife: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 5, 2008

18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Witchel (Me Times Three) returns to the romances of Manhattan's upper echelons in this Gawkeriffic potboiler. Ponce Porter passed up college and left Harding, S.C., to try New York as an aspiring young model and quickly ended up married to Lee Morris, a very wealthy TV producer almost 40 years her senior. Childless by choice and bored, Ponce enrolled in NYU and then law school, eventually settling at a prestigious firm. Cut to the now-widowed Ponce—now 42 and dubbed The Spare Wife for her ability to gracefully attend social functions with any and all of upper New York—locking lips in a Chicago hotel with the happily married celebrity fertility doctor Neil Grossman, where she's spotted by Babette Steele, an aspiring 25-year-old assistant at the prestigious Boothby's Review. Babette knows she has the breakout story of her career, but Ponce and her delightfully crafted cast of friends aim to spoil Babette's feast. Witchel's drama-filled portrait of 40-something socialites in the Paris Hilton era has scandalous affairs and social to-dos to spare. It's extravagant and shallow, closely observed and entertaining. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

Witchel plumbs the shallows of celebrity journalism in this nimble look at the high stakes involved when covering high society. Among Manhattan’s glitterati, wealthy divorcée Ponce Morris is a rarity among trophy ex-wives: she’s adored by her female friends for her entertaining elegance and by their husbands for her genuine interest in sports and politics. Indeed, her loudly proclaimed aversion to romance or remarriage makes her the most sought-after companion in town. But when ambitious young editorial assistant Babette Steele catches Ponce in a passionate embrace with happily married Dr. Neil Grossman, fertility doctor to the stars, the possibility of a glitzy magazine scoop exposing Ponce’s hypocrisy seems like Babette’s ticket to media mecca. Siccing everyone from a private eye to her personal trainer on Ponce’s trail, Babette fails to consider the strength of Ponce’s social connections nor her zealous talent for self-preservation. Thanks to New York Times lifestyle reporter Witchel’s insider knowledge of media machinations, this spry and pithy satire bursts with nipping, sardonic humor. --Carol Haggas

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140004149X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400041497
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,659,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Cate on March 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Ponce is a model turned lawyer who is sleeping with fertility maven Neil Grossman, unbeknownst to her friend Shawsie whose husband Robin is sleeping with editorial-assistant-on-the-make Babette Steele, who finds out about Ponce's affair and decides to write an article about it to launch her career.

And that's about all there is to it. Alex Witchel is a fine journalist in her own right, whose features I always make a point of reading, but her skills don't extend to her fiction. Was I the only person who had to push myself to finish this one?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Blue in Washington TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Spare Wife" is a chronicle of NYC A-listers. All the women are rich, mostly beautiful and generally bored and bitchy. Their men are also well-heeled, often idle and generally without virtue and honor. The novel's heroine is socialite Ponce Morris, who is portrayed as an exception to the women's stereotype. She is rich and beautiful, to be sure, but the lady is a tramp. She doesn't have time for people and things that she hates.

This formula is familiar and would have worked a whole lot better for me in this book if author Alex Witchel had given the story a much sharper edge. But this isn't "Bonfire of the Vanities" with its whipsaw extremes of character and behavior and nasty consequences. In "The Spare Wife," the characters seem pushed toward the mushy center of behavior and the concept of "fierceness" is not present. Even the author's heroine, Ponce, who is presented as the paragon of independent spirit and unfailing kindness through most of the story, becomes less unique and kind in her theoretical triumph in one of the last chapters of the book. At the other end of the character spectrum, the story's villainess--young, beautiful and sneaky, Babette, is punished in the end by "having" to marry a handsome, megarich "older" man. This is punishment that is hard to see as justice.
Author Witchel is a decent writer and delivers some witty zingers in the book's dialogue, but on the whole, "The Spare Wife" is froth without the guilty pleasure of whipped cream, from beginning to end.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nose in a Book on May 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I wanted to like this book. I did find myself wishing it was finished by the time I hit page 34. Tedious, boring and takes forever to get thru it!!!! .
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Gail Cooke HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Following her well received first novel "Me Times Three," New York Times Magazine writer Alex Witchel serves a delicious witty diss of Manhattan's upper echelon - the very, very rich and the famous (both now and then). In other words, it is a strata where "The rich always mattered most, and the well known - an ever-changing group of the hot then the not, who were the evening's equivalent of the entertainment - always mattered less."

Witchel's dialogue sparkles and descriptions are deft as she opens her tale with a posh Park Avenue dinner party where guests were "murmuring over the string of Tissots that reached from the dining room entrance to the duplex's main stairway. It looked like an opening night at the Met."

Observing this scene while very much a part of it is Ponce Morris, a former model still knockout gorgeous at 42. A widow, Ponce has found a place for herself as a friend, one who shops or lunches with women and talks sports with the men. She's known for her agreeable nature and total disinterest in sex. (Not quite true).

She has helped the recently divorced Jacqueline Posner put this evening together in order to show their small world that Jacqueline is fine, her design business is steady, and she has no mind to fade into obscurity (after all, a move to Gracie Square isn't exactly nowhere).

The guests are an interesting group - most noteworthy is BabetteSteele a bosomy young assistant at a trendy magazine who has been invited to amuse Montrose Merriweather who likes his women younger as he grows older. Although Babette's writing ability seems to be a moot question she has made herself helpful at the office and wants very much to be a full-time staff member - wants it so much that when she discover Ponce and Dr.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Babette is going to target Ponce, everyone's friend. Ponce is the spare wife. She had been married to the very rich, and very controlling Lee. Once she got her law degree, she left him in an acrimonious divorce. Years later they befriended again, and she stayed on to nurse him through his final illness. Since then she works for foster children, goes her own way, and forces wears sex. She is the spare wife, that rare woman who befriends both husband and wife. She plays companion to them both, standing in when the other is bored or busy. But she has a deeply held secret.

Babette, an assistant editor, with huge ambition and few scruples knows the secret. She is willing to play all of her cards. She wants the money and the status that Ponce has, and she doesn't want to wait.

I enjoy a book set in a world of wealth and power. Every once in a while it is fun to have a luxurious setting for my reading. I agree with Didion and believe that Witchel does a nice job on casting a fresher eye on an admittedly time worn plot. Witchel gives us some finely turned character development, and I am a fan of her writing. Ponce and Babette are portrayed at a multidimensional level that I wouldn't have predicted given the plot line. The book was fun and good company on a winter day.
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