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The Costs of Compromises; 4.5*s,
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This review is from: The Wife: A Novel (Paperback)
It must be devastating to want to be a writer, to work at it, devote much effort to writing exercises, adopt the proper mannerisms and culture, meet all the right people and yet have minimal talent for the craft. Depending upon what point that poignant fact is finally learned, the writer has choices, but with psychological costs: simply slipping away is an option, or perhaps the more risky path of concealing one's limitations is taken. On the other hand, it is also sad when a person with talent is not in a position to express it, whether due to personal reasons or external pressures. "The Wife" is a very keen look at the world of writing and authorship and the impacts on those with and without talent. In addition the politics of getting published and accepted, especially in regard to gender, is explored, as well as the subtleties and demands operating within marriages of authors.
The marriage of Joe Castleman, a creative writing professor, and Joan, a totally smitten student, examined over forty-plus years, serves as the vehicle for exploring all of these themes. What could be more joyous: Joe, at the pinnacle of a highly acclaimed and rewarded career, is finally receiving the prestigious Helsinki Prize for fiction. But the beaming Finnish hosts have not a clue at the high costs that have been exacted on the long journey from the grungy Greenwich Village apartment that Joe and Joan shared. Compromises have been made with rippling consequences.
The book is sharply written, with great insight and even a touch of subtle humor. One might have wished for a slightly deeper plumbing of Joan's thoughts along the way. Is there a surprise ending? Yes and no. Regardless, the story grabs the reader and won't let go.