Harper Perennial;2004, 373 pages
“Vita Sackville-West described herself as an iceberg and said her husband could only see what was above the water’s surface–he had no idea of the huge mass below. She speculated it was the reason their marriage worked. What relationship could survice the shock of absolute candor?” –Nikki Gemmell
Been hearing about this controversial bestseller for a long time, and it was only fitting that my husband, who had no idea what this book was about, bought this for me on our civil wedding day. There is something taboo and “hush-hush” about a novel done anonymously and this alone gives any literary work an instant ‘oomph’ to it.
“For my husband. For every husband” is the dedication of this book.
Take your super ordinary, super plain and content wife. The woman you would never give a second glance to as she walks down an aisle at the supermarket; the woman who has completely disappeared into being the “little wife”. This book, told in the second person point of view (You being the protagonist), is about the awakening (sexual, mainly) of the ordinary wife in her mid 30’s. She is the proper clean wife, and when her marriage hits a bump (husband and her bestfriend betrays her), she decides to start living her life selfishly, why not.
Selfishly meant putting her own indulgences ahead, writing an erotic novel under her husband’s nose and succumbing to dark thoughts that she never thought she’d be capable of. She forms an affair, a student-teacher relationship with that of a Spanish-English virgin. And for once, she is the ringleader of the bed.
Her young lover soon becomes obsessed with her, and she puts the trysts to a stop.
Her relationship with her husband revs up again, with the help of her newfound sexuality and soon they conceive a child, and she tries to live her life on the normal mode again, content on having, for now, the stint with her young lover, as the most sensational chapter in her life.
A very simple plot, but boldy, very honestly and admiringly told. One should take all the time in the world to read this book, because, apart from the feminist plot, the story is written very beautifully. The protagonist was unamed purposely, so that every woman can distinguish herself and relate to the story. I originally thought that the author, Nikki Gemmel, wanted the book to be written anonymously only to gain the mystique factor. The book has an exclusive interview with the author and she explained very well, that she Had to finish the novel knowing her name will not come up, because anonymity will release her from inhibitions and reluctance of writing a novel that may be described as vulgar and literary pornography. She dared to describe, in graceful detail, what I believe, every woman has thought of, but had no audacity to declare out loud–to her husband, friend, etc.
After reading this book, it has sunk into me that no matter how liberated and opinionated women are of today, we are still not in the man-woman equal stage. A novel such as this is becomes controversial because ‘bad impure thoughts’ from a woman (girlfriend, mother, wife, grandmother), are still considered to be shocking. A man who thinks of sex 24 hours a day is considered human but once a woman confesses to that, its not exactly a sin, but it comes off as “unusual, but yeah, these things happen”. It will still take us several more years before man and woman will be totally equal.
Anyway, to sum up the book, a statement from Good Reading cannot say it any better: “Husbands will be left feeling distinctly nervous” (if any husband reads this at all).