The Good Wife (by Elizabeth Buchan)

I've been reading Elizabeth Buchan's books for a few years now. I like her style, and her characters, although I tend to find them a bit over-filled with extra information that doesn't particularly interest me. Still, I'm Gradually picking them up from second-hand shops, and find them good light reads on the whole.

'The Good Wife' is told in the first person, from the perspective of Fanny, who is married to Will. Will is a politician, and Fanny is a wine specialist, working with her much-loved father. She has something of a whirlwind romance with Will and is then thrown into the life she is expected to lead as the 'good wife' of someone in politics.

So Fanny has to watch what she wears, and what she says, and who she mixes with. She has to attend functions and dinners, and keep smiling, and support her husband at ballots - right through the night, sometimes, as the votes are tallied. She finds it quite a challenge at first, but she is deeply in love with Will and makes a determined effort to do all that is needed.

Their daughter Chloƫ is very important to them both. When the book starts she is 18, just finishing her A-levels, and preparing to do a gap year in Australia. Fanny is not ready to deal with her daughter leaving home - something I can well relate to! - and finds herself re-thinking her roles, and whether she might start doing more work with her father.

It took a while for the book to get going. There's a lot of switching between the past and the present, gradually building up a picture of Will and Fanny's lives, and the problems surrounding politicians trying to juggle work and home priorities. There's more detail about politics than really interests me, although I suppose it was necessary for the sake of authenticity, and also for readers who like practical details about how people life.

I found the characters good, though not as sympathetic as I would have liked. I could relate to Fanny as a mother, yet her role as Will's wife is so difficult that I found it hard to imagine how anyone - other than a dedicated politician - could possibly uphold it for so long. Naturally she harbours some doubts and resentments, and when matters come to a crisis, towards the end of the book, the pace gets going.

I found myself enjoying the latter third of the book considerably more than the first part. There were some thought-provoking questions arising about loyalty, and commitment, and forgiveness, and the ending was basically satisfactory, after a few shocks and surprises.

All in all, not a bad light read. I have certainly learned to be very thankful that I am not married to a politician!

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, May 2008

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