Customer Reviews: The Headmaster's Wife
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VINE VOICEon January 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This story is divided into three parts; Acrimony, Expectations and After. The headmaster narrates the first part and the other two are narrated in the third person describing events from a different perspective.

When I began reading the headmaster's story I was concerned by what he was doing and worried where the story was headed. By the end of his narrative I was shocked by the events that had unfolded. While reading 'Expectations' and then 'After' the reader gains insight about events described in part one and the story becomes a very different one.

I don't want to say too much or give anything away that you may not already know from the book jacket or promotional blurb. I do want to say that I was completely engrossed by this book and read it from start to finish in less than 24 hours. The author really nails relationships and emotions and expertly dissects grief (unfortunately this comes from experience).

I think this would make an excellent book club book, I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The Headmaster's Wife is a beautifully written novel that is packed full of unexpected turns and poignant moments. I'm not sure what I was expecting when I opened this book, but I do know that it delivered much more than its title and premise would indicate. This is a story about marriage, love and grief that reads like a thriller. The pacing is fast and the book is so compelling that you will find it hard to put down as the author meticulously unwinds a story that starts out being fairly predictable but ends up in a place that you would never expect.

This book is very readable, and I can't even begin to state how much I admired this prose that was both spare and elegant, and complex and beautiful. Not a word is wasted nor a phrase misplaced in a tale that is so achingly real, the pages seem at times to exude an overpowering sadness that is incredibly moving. This portrayal of two broken lives will stay with me for quite a while. I was able to see bits of myself in The Headmaster's Wife, and even though I am totally unfamiliar with this setting, I felt like I was there as the author turns such a perceptive eye to tragic circumstances, treating them with a compassionate heart without ever losing his dispassionate perspective.

The Headmaster's Wife is an enthusiastic recommend for any fan of literary fiction looking for an authentic and unique look at love and loss. I can't wait to explore some of this author's other works!
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on February 25, 2014
Disclosure: ARC provided by Goodreads First Reads/St. Martin's Press.

I never win anything. The last time I won something was circa 1982 and it was a bag of cheezeez. So I was delighted to win one of the ARCs provided by St. Martin’s Press for the upcoming release of The Headmaster’s Wife; a way better prize than a bag of faux-cheese snacks, and, although it was a quick read, way more satisfying.

At its heart, The Headmaster’s Wife is a book about grief. Grief for one’s lost youth, grief for lost love and love lost, and grief over a tragedy that cannot be fully comprehended by the characters. Greene excels at getting into his character’s heads to fully examine their thoughts and motivations, resulting in fully fleshed-out, believable people. At times the tone reminded me of Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods (and I mean this as a compliment; it’s one of my favourite books); it has similar sturdy but expressive prose and a haunting air of mystery and foreboding as a marriage flails on its last legs before you. The first half of the book is from the headmaster, Arthur Winthrop’s point of view. After being arrested for taking a naked, winter stroll in Central Park, he starts to tell his seemingly straight-forward tale of his life with his wife, Elizabeth, how they have grown apart, how she frets for their son who is serving overseas, and how he has fallen for one of his teenage students. Arthur’s infatuation with his student is bound to be his downfall and as he becomes increasingly erratic in his behaviour, you just know this isn’t going to end well. But Greene deftly pulls the rug out from under you at the mid-point of the book, slides it right out from under your well-planted feet and all you can do as you plummet towards the ground is think “Huhwah?”

But in a good way of course – this is where an already absorbing book really becomes unputdownable (is that a word? probably not, but I’m going with it). After that point, the narrative focuses mainly on Elizabeth, and all the parts that made you go “hmmm...” in the first half of the book start to get filled in. I was really impressed by how Greene did this; how he made it all start to gel as you realize just how psychologically wounded Arthur is under all his staunch, buttoned-down crustiness. I wanted to go back and re-read the first half of the book to fully connect the dots, but I refrained as I like the somewhat unsettled, dreamy feeling of not quite fully comprehending Arthur’s experience. I feel the book could have ended a chapter earlier; it was a bit too wrapped up for me at the very end, but overall I really enjoyed it and it's going on my favourites shelf (when I get around to creating a favourites shelf).
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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.
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on February 27, 2014
This story pulled me in and kept my interest throughout. It's not a thriller; the suspense comes from the gradual disclosures of what happened to bring Arthur Winthrop to walk naked in Central Park on an early winter morning. Be forewarned that Arthur is a pretty despicable character. It's a testament to the talent of the author that, dispite Arthur's vile actions, he is in the end deserving of our sympathy and compassion.
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on February 28, 2014
I had read another book by Tom Greene and was very impressed with his narrative skill, choice of language and character development. "The Headmaster's Wife" threw me for a loop in the way that only a great book can. It reminded me of The Goldfinch in the depth to which it plumbs and portrays the psyches of its characters. I recommend the book to all who love suspense, fine writing and compelling narrative. Spoiler alert.. you will be left going back over earlier pages as you reconcile the wonderfully complex points of view.
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on April 6, 2014
I read The Headmaster's Wife over the weekend wrapped in a blanket on the sofa, totally absorbed. I loved it. It begins from Arthur's perspective and as the reader you are immediately made aware that something is seriously wrong in his life. The book starts with Arthur being questioned by the police and slowly telling his story. The author creates a picture of a man of habit, routine and tradition yet as the story unfolds there are hints from others' reactions to Arthur that he is starting to behave oddly.
As the story progresses the perspective changes and the second half of the book is told from Elizabeth, Arthur's wife. It is this part of the book in which all things become clear and in a sense feels more honest, reflecting perhaps that Arthur is less insightful than he initially appears.
This book is an honest approach to relationships and how our perspectives change over time both of ourselves and our partner. I underlined so many points which I loved during this book, one of my favourites being "this is what love is: letting someone else see that part of you that shatters like glass. All of us are broken in our own way" (Page 215).
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on July 14, 2014
Imagine yourself standing in front of a mirror with two friends standing alongside you. Now imagine the mirror cracking into dozens of pieces, barely holding together. The faces become distorted and unrecognizable. That, gentle reader, is the best description I can conjure of what happens in The Headmaster’s Wife. Plot-wise, it is the literary equivalent of Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase.”

On page one we meet Arthur Winthrop. Like his father before him, he is Headmaster of the elite Lancaster School in Vermont. It is a world of knowledge, beauty and order, in which Arthur leads a circumscribed life with an “explicit sense of primogeniture.” He grew from good boy to good man, and became a good teacher who is now a good headmaster. But when the book begins he is having a very bad day, wandering naked in Central Park on a snowy afternoon. Soon he is under interrogation by the police. As readers we are only slightly less confused than Arthur, but not so confused that we stop reading. In fact, we cannot stop reading. This is a “turn off the phone and don’t answer the door” kind of book. I was hooked from the first page, and a few pages later you could not have pried it from my hands. I devoured it in four hours.

Much of the book’s first half is told in Arthur’s voice. This is particularly eerie because prior to the incident in Central Park he’s become obsessed with Betsy, a Lancaster student “still learning to molt into adulthood.” For this “old man in his tweed and his school tie” Betsy’s youth is irresistible and he believes she will never be more beautiful than she is at this moment. There is a serious creep factor to the passages in which he dreams of Betsy day and night, recklessly stalks her in every corner of the Lancaster campus, and ultimately befriends her. Their relationship grows ever more complicated and unnerving and the reader begins to wonder if we have a Lolita situation developing. Do not be surprised to find yourself flinching at what is on the page. When Russell Hurley enters their world things go even further south. How can Arthur’s behavior fail to ruin everyone’s lives? Keep reading.

Greene is an elegant writer and there is much literary pleasure to be found in the world of academia he creates. But things are not always as they appear, so read carefully. And keep in mind Duchamp’s work of art, as well as the title of the novel. That’s where the story is.
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on January 23, 2016
Life is way too precious to waste even one minute of your time on this book. The first part was OK but the rest was way, way below average. Predictable and boring with unlikeable characters. Every book should have at least one character that the reader can identify with.....this book had none.
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on September 8, 2014
Unlikable, undeveloped characters; plot was unnecessarily sex-driven; interesting premise and some truly outstanding literary lines, but the themes felt fetal and unformed. I read the whole book in a few hours and I'll have forgotten it in two weeks, probably less. Definitely not a masterwork, maybe just good enough for the airplane, but overall I wouldn't recommend this novel.
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