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I enjoyed the experience of reading it but hoped for something more.
on February 20, 2014
The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene is written in a beautiful style that makes the reading of this book compelling. Greene has a way with words that hooks the reader from the first pages. The plot, however, is not as well-considered as I would have liked and I was disappointed by the denouement. It seemed like a deus ex machina, and not at all realistic.
The book starts out with Arthur Winthrop, Headmaster of The Lancaster School in Vermont, a prestigious boarding school, found wandering naked in Central Park. What was he doing out there? The police are interested in his story and as it unravels it becomes obvious that parts of Arthur's mind are confused. He tells the story of a marriage that has soured over the years, with lost intimacy and increased distance between him and his wife Elizabeth. At the same time, Arthur becomes obsessively enamored of a new transfer student named Betsy Pappas. He is willing to risk all for a relationship with her. As the story of Betsy and Arthur unfurls, I found myself gripping the pages for more. However, something felt amiss to me and as the second half of the story fills in the pieces, I found out why.
Arthur and Elizabeth have a son named Ethan who Arthur had hoped would follow in his family's footsteps and become Headmaster of Lancaster School some day. However, upon graduation, and right after 9/11, Ethan joins the army and goes to Iraq. Arthur is furious and Elizabeth is torn up with fear. Ethan is a good person but is not the son that Arthur had hoped he'd be. Elizabeth has tried to protect him from the world but has to let him go.
I found the second half of the book as interesting as the first half. However, I also found it to be implausible towards the end. I don't want to give any spoilers so I will leave it at that. This is a good literary page-turner that leaves something to be desired - like a jigsaw puzzle with two or three missing pieces or pieces that don't fit. I enjoyed the experience of reading it but hoped for something more.