Friday, April 24, 2009

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

A Reliable Wife is a fast book. Reading it in two days was a breeze.

That said, I'm not sure how I feel about it. Mostly, I thought it was great. Except for one thing: I felt lied to. What should have been a plot twist caused, instead of surprise, a confusing re-evaluation of narrator and character. And in fact, the twist wasn't particularly surprising; I'd suspected it at first but disregarded it because based on the character's thoughts and plans, it didn't make sense.

Isn't there a rule about omniscient narrators? Aren't they supposed to tell it like it is? Omitting details may be one of a writer's suspense-building tools, but completely misrepresenting a character's thoughts, plans or schemes seems like bad form to me. (My husband thinks this has to do with the betrayal theme; I told him omniscient narrators don't get to do that.)

That pretty much deteriorated the rest of the book for me; I felt a little less invested in the characters thereafter (and a little annoyed with their sexual obsessions), and though the plot was intense enough to keep me glued till the end, and the small details were seldom tedious, and overall, the writing was fantastic, I couldn't shake the oily feel of the author's trick--and if it weren't for that, I would be singing its praises hither and yon.

But isn't the Canadian cover (left) lovely?

Thanks to HarperCollins Canada for the review copy.


Bookfool said...

I love both covers, actually. I know exactly what you mean. That bothered me about the book, also, but I looked at it in a different way -- they were such liars that they couldn't even be fully honest with themselves. Still . . . not my favorite. I was definitely too dark for me and the characters were far too unlikeable to care about. I thought the best part of the book was the first 50 pages.

bethany said...

Oh yes, the Canadian cover is so pretty! I am bummed you didn't like this just as much as everyone else seems to. I actually just came over from putting it on hold at my local lib. Thanks for the honest review though! :)

Have a great weekend.

stacey @ book:thirty said...

Oh, I haven't seen that cover - I love it! I actually really loved this book, despite some better judgement on the whole "sexual obsession" thing (which seems to be true of each of the three main characters!). I understand what you're saying about the characters & transparency (and consistency in motive, etc), but I think I was too overwhelmed by the writing (which I thought was incredible) and the mood (which was so...moody). :) Thanks for sharing your take on this.

bermudaonion said...

I actually love both covers. A lot of people have enjoyed this one, but you're not the first I've heard that didn't just love it.

Literate Housewife said...

I am not sure if omniscient narrators have to be reliable or not. I tend to like unreliable narrators. I would really like to read this book and check it out. Great review and honest, Jena. I love the covers, too. I wonder why covers are different between countries?

Zibilee said...

I had been really excited to read this book, but I'm not really sure if I would want to deal with an unreliable narrator. Sometimes I have no issues with that, but if I feel like the unreliability really changes the impact of the story, It would totally turn me off. Thanks for reviewing this one. This is the first review I have seen and it gives me a better idea of what to expect if I ever read this book.

Anonymous said...

It would be a problem if the narrator is really third person omniscient unreliable.

Having said that, I'm often mislead by unreliable first person narrators. I tend to believe them and miss the irony until later.

Jess said...

I love both covers as well. I am looking forward to reading this. I am very curious to find out the twist. Thanks for the review.