Summary: Nestled among Manhattan University’s faculty housing, there is a garden where four women will meet—each with a scandalous secret that could upset their lives, destroy their families, and rock the prestigious university to its very core...
With its maple trees, iron gate, and fence laced with honeysuckle, Manhattan U’s garden offers faculty wives Mary, Sofia, Ashleigh, and Hannah much needed refuge from their problems. For Mary, the garden is an escape from abuse. For Sofia, it offers solace as she considers trading in her diaper bag for a briefcase. Then there's Ashleigh, who wonders whether she should tell her conservative father something that might well give him another heart attack. And last is Hannah, who rues jeopardizing her lukewarm marriage...for one passionate night.
As Mary's husband, the power-hungry dean, makes plans to demolish the beloved garden, these four women will discover a surprising secret about a lost Edgar Allen Poe manuscript...and realize they must find the courage to stand up for their passions, dreams, and desires. -- book jacket
I seem to always enjoy a good book about women and the strength of female friendships; and THE PROFESSORS' WIVES' CLUB by Joanne Rendell was no exception. This book covers the lives of four women who become friends in their efforts to save a garden retreat from being demolished. They all have a common enemy in the dean of the college who wants to tear down their park to build a parking garage.
I found all of the four main female characters to be very likable. In fact, I think most readers will recognize women they know and love in each of these characters. All of the characters were pretty different from each other in both personalities, interests, and even age; but they were drawn together by a common interest. I am such a sucker for books like this show the incredible bond between women!
One thing that I really liked was that the author tackled some difficult and controversial issues within the pages of this novel. Mary, the wife of the dean, was both verbally and physically abused by her husband. I commend the author for showing a professional, educated woman in an abusive relationship since so often think that abuse doesn't happen to these types of women. There were also serious issues discussed in this novel such as marital problems, infidelity, and motherhood struggles.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this book was that the author incorporated the Edgar Allen Poe angle into the story. I don't want to give too much away, but the book discusses the time period when Poe lived in New York City. In fact, there was a mystery surrounding some Edgar Allen Poe papers. I found that this side-story actually sets apart this book from other formulaic women's friendship stories. I found the Poe parts of the story to be very interesting, and it's apparent that the author conducted some research while writing this book. (By the way, Ms. Rendell has a little experience with literature-- she completed her PhD in English Lit.)
This is Joanne Rendell's first novel, but I'm pretty sure that it won't be her last. This book was written very well, and I found it a very enjoyable read. I think she did a good job of developing the main characters and making me feel as if any of these women could be friends of mine. Ms. Rendell is an actual professor's wife, and I have a feeling that some of the characters and situations are loosely based on her own life experiences. I am looking forward to her next novel (another book that takes place on a college campus) which will be published by New American Library/Penguin in the summer of 2009.
THE PROFESSORS' WIVES' CLUB would make a great book for a lot of book clubs, especially if yours is like mine and enjoys women's fiction. There is a terrific discussion guide at the back of the book as well as an interesting interview with Ms. Rendell. I found the Q&A to really enhance my reading experience because I was able to learn some background behind the story as well as a few things about the author.
I found THE PROFESSORS' WIVES' CLUB to be a fun, light read; and I recommend it to those readers who enjoy books about women and relationships.