Friday, April 17, 2009

Review: The Spare Wife

Summary: Ponce Morris is a beautiful, rich widow who’s known as “the spare wife” because she’s the perfect companion to the wealthy, powerful, New York couples in her elite social circle. She throws elegant dinner parties, goes to sports events with the husbands, and shops with the wives. She’s both flawlessly appropriate and coolly nonthreatening—everyone knows Ponce doesn’t have a romantic bone in her body. Over the years, she has managed other people’s lives—and her own—perfectly. Then Babette Seele, an ambitious, aspiring journalist, discovers that Ponce is having an affair with a socially prominent, very married man, and decides to break the scandal, turning Ponce’s carefully calibrated world upside down. Witchel’s sophisticated, witty, sexy satire provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives and loves of upper-class New Yorkers, sharply exposing the foibles of the fabulous. -- Plume

A few years ago, I read ME TIMES THREE by Alex Witchel; and while I don't remember much about it, I do remember liking the author's writing style. So when the opportunity came to participate in a book tour for THE SPARE WIFE, I jumped at the chance. I can definitely say that I enjoyed THE SPARE WIFE, and I found it to be a more enjoyable read than ME TIMES THREE.

The storyline in this book sounded promising -- a middle-aged divorcee is caught in an affair with a prominent married man. Unfortunately, the premise is not that surprising in today's world, but I thought this story was unique in that the characters involved were members of New York's high society. By writing the story around these types of people, the author was able to create very unique characters that are certainly memorable for the reader. In so many ways, each character was more despicable than the next; and this story wasn't lacking for affairs, lying, cheating, etc. Those types of people and their actions no doubt can make for entertaining reading!

I have to admit that when I first started reading THE SPARE WIFE, I did have a difficult time keeping track of all the characters and how they related to each other. I was frustrated for a short time; but after I thought about it for a bit, I kind of liked the effect the first few chapters had on me. The story begins with a woman who is throwing a type of "coming out" party after her husband leaves her. Her life is in a huge state of change and there are many people at her party that she doesn't even know. Because many readers will feel a little overwhelmed at the beginning, I think the author actually did a good job setting the tone of this novel. As confused as I was for a few pages, all of the characters did have a reason for being in the story and their relationships and interactions came together very nicely.

While the story was interesting, the real beauty of this book is Ms. Witchel's writing style. I think she did a terrific job of giving an insider's view into New York society; and the characters she created were definitely interesting. I can't relate at all to any of her characters in this story, but I thought she did a good job of developing them (and even some of their reasons for their behavior.) What I really appreciated though was the humor that was prevalent throughout this novel. I found myself laughing at so much of the characters' behavior because it was so ridiculous, but then a part of me kept wondering if it really were that ridiculous. I guess that's the beauty of a satirical book -- I wasn't sure how much of it was true or exaggerated. I would think that writing satire would be extremely difficult; however, I think Ms. Witchel successfully managed to do just that with THE SPARE WIFE.

This book is hilarious and very fun to read; and each of the characters and their actions are more outrageous than the next. There is also a large part of the story which deals with revenge that I found entertaining. Having said that, this book does have touch on some serious issues including adultery, loss of a spouse, and infertility. I enjoyed that there were some moving parts of this story and that some of the characters do show a softer side (and even some compassion.) There are also underlying messages of healing, forgiveness and redemption. Overall, it's a very entertaining read that fans of satire will enjoy!

A big thanks goes out to Mothertalk for allowing me to participate in this book blog tour.


Beth F said...

Sounds like a complex book (and I mean that in a good way) that can be read on several levels. Good review.

bermudaonion said...

Wow! It sounds like there's a lot going on in that book. Great review!

Anna said...

You did a much better job than I did explaining the complexities of the book. I agree their behavior was often ridiculous and entertaining. I didn't think about it being satirical, but I can totally see that now. Great review!

Diary of an Eccentric

Belle | MsBookish said...

What an interesting idea, a "spare wife". This one sounds good - I tend to like high society novels. Good review.

S. Krishna said...

Interesting - I might have to give this one a try! Nice review!