Review 1672: Literary Wives! Monogamy

Today is another review for the Literary Wives blogging club, in which we discuss the depiction of wives in fiction. If you have read the book, please participate by leaving comments on any of our blogs.

Be sure to read the reviews and comments of the other wives!

Eva of Paperback Princess
Lynn of Smoke and Mirrors
Naomi of Consumed By Ink

* * *

Annie, a small, reserved photographer, and Graham, a large, extroverted bookstore owner, have been married for about 30 years. Their story goes forward linearly with many visits to the past as Miller minutely examines their relationship. The crux of the story, though, is that Graham has been having an affair that he has just managed to break off. Then that night he dies in his sleep. Months later, Annie is just beginning to make some sort of recovery from her grief when she learns of the affair and has to reassess what she thought she knew about their marriage.

It’s hard to explain or evaluate this novel. Miller is generous to her characters, but she is also very observant. She examines and excavates their relationship in a detached way, even though the novel is from Annie’s viewpoint, that can seem cold. That is, there are no value judgments but also no feeling of affection, either, which may make readers feel detached. On the other hand, she really understands the intricacies and complications of marriage.

What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?

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Although Annie and Graham are happily married, we learn that Annie resisted him at first because she was afraid he would overwhelm her. For his part, his bonhomie and charm hide his insecurities, and his lust for life is characterized by a certain insatiability. He needs.

In this novel, although we see almost her every thought, I thought Annie was somewhat of an enigma. I find myself puzzled by her even while understanding why she is angry with Graham. I almost think that the novel provides us too many details of their lives to answer this question. Of all the books we have read for this club so far this one seems to be the most nuanced. Still, I find myself without very much to say about it.

After thinking about it for awhile, though, it seems to me that the couple is a mismatch even though they were happily married for years. It seems that Annie doesn’t realize that Graham reinvented himself from an introverted geek to the loud, exuberant charismatic person he became. Perhaps because this isn’t his true self, Graham seems to seek reaffirmation of his attractiveness through affairs. Annie is probably too self-possessed to be the person who could calm Graham’s insecurities. Perhaps he would have been happier with someone who was more dependent.

The title also makes me wonder if we’re supposed to re-evaluate the whole concept of monogamy, but nothing in the book forwards this thought.

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9 thoughts on “Review 1672: Literary Wives! Monogamy

  1. The Paperback Princess June 7, 2021 / 12:04 pm

    I think what you have to say about the detachment that Miller writes with is spot on. It was impossible to care about any of the characters because there was no feeling and that made it possible, for this reader, to rail at the book like old man yells at cloud!

    Graham needs! That’s it! He took everything from Annie and still she wasn’t enough.

    • whatmeread June 7, 2021 / 12:24 pm

      You really hated it! I have to admire that in a person. LOL!

  2. Naomi June 9, 2021 / 11:27 am

    I was forgetting that we learn about Graham’s re-invention of himself – that’s a good point. I feel like Freda probably knows him better than Annie does.
    This makes me wonder… how well do we have to know someone to be happy with them? And, if we’ve been happy with them, does it really matter?

    • whatmeread June 9, 2021 / 6:16 pm

      Yes, because they seemed happy, but then again, she didn’t know he was unfaithful. I kept wondering if we were supposed to make something of this, considering the title.

      • Naomi June 10, 2021 / 11:38 am

        Yes, I wonder why that title?

      • whatmeread June 10, 2021 / 1:00 pm

        It seemed like a critique of monogamy to me, somehow, but I’m not sure.

      • Naomi June 11, 2021 / 10:31 am

        Remember the part about Lucas and his wife after their baby was born – they were feeling distant from each other, and his wife flew home to visit her family for a month? I thought for sure he was going to end up cheating like his father, but then he didn’t and I was happy about that. But now I’m wondering what the purpose of it was? Monogamy works for everyone in the story but Graham? (Was he the only one we knew of out of all the couples in the book?)

      • whatmeread June 11, 2021 / 11:40 am

        I’m not sure. I read it a couple of months ago, and that’s the down side, sometimes I can’t remember details. It seems like Graham was unfaithful before, too.

      • Naomi June 11, 2021 / 12:24 pm

        Yes, I think he was.

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