Mirror, Mirror, Who is the Best Wife of All?
Love Stories With a Historical Background
Paula McLain recently published the biography of Hadley Richardson in her bestseller The Paris Wife. Hadley was married to Ernest Hemingway in 1921 until 1927, date of their divorce. In this biography, Paula describes a woman who could not keep up with the striking personality and character of the American novelist. She dedicated her youth to his blooming career and unmerciful way of life.
Sacrifice is also the main subject of David Ebershoff's The 19th Wife, which relates Ann Eliza Young's crusade against polygamy in Utah. Her expulsion from the church by Mormon leader Bringham Young, her husband, demonstrates the absolute power yielded by this male controlled society which can shatter a wife's life.
On a lighter note, in the novel The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger , the husband is not really at fault if Clare, the wife, gets emotionally hurt by his mysterious disappearances and reappearances. Her empathy and love sways the reader who will remember her as a devoted and patient wife.
When reading detective novels such as The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve and The Second Wife by Brenda Chapman you wonder how well you know your second-half! The double life of the characters is dramatized by the tragedy of death and the healing process that ensues. Kathryn, the pilot's wife, is the most endearing of the two: her trusting and sincere nature had prevented her from suspecting her husband's treachery. When the story unfolds, although devastated, she holds it together for the sake of her daughter.
In Diane Ackerman's non-fiction narrative The Zookeeper 's Wife, the story takes place in Nazi Germany. Antonina, wife of a professor of Warsaw's secret University, who smuggled Jews out of the Ghetto to the zoo, needed to keep them safe. She was definitely not an ordinary spouse, but a war heroine whose spirit, intelligence, and courage saved hundreds of lives.
Hitler's Germany is also the backdrop of the book The Oriental Wife by Evelyn Toynton. Louisa, who earns the title of wife by derision, at first does not fit the docile, servile cliché of the Eastern European housewife. Facing new values, personal tragedy, and challenges when she moves to the U.S., she embodies more the liberated American wife who defies traditional values.
Three of the books mentioned above are now movies:
- The 19th Wife (2010) directed by R.Holcomb
- The Time Traveler's Wife (2009) directed by R.Schwentke
- The Pilot's Wife (2003) directed by R.Markowitz
Although faithful to the books, all were criticized for their melodramatic adaptation.
The series The Good Wife (2010) has been very successful: actress Juliana Margulies fits perfectly in the role of a politician's wife who pursues her own career after her husband's imprisonment for corruption. She is the most brilliant, determined and career driven wife of all.
In Jessica Sinclaire's Confessions of a Lonely Wife (2010) thriller movie, the spouse also shows resilience and courage facing her husband's deceits and infidelity. Does she compare to the other wives ? I shall let you be the judge.
In all those works, it seems that the common theme is no matter how badly treated, wives raise up to the occasion, overcome grief and wrongdoing, and splendidly handle their predicament: they are true heroines.
Jocelyne C. is an extra-help library assistant at the Atherton, Portola Valley & Woodside libraries but also a wife (with a wonderful husband and no drama!).