Book – Looking for a great psychological thriller? The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen should satisfy that need. Vanessa is the jilted, ex-wife of Richard. When they first met she was swept off her feet by this handsome, wealthy, successful and attentive man. To her, their relationship was worth giving up her career and New York City lifestyle, to move to the suburbs with the prospect of a future family. The fairy tale soon unravels after numerous, failed fertility treatments. Richard eventually leaves Vanessa for his assistant Nellie, who in many ways is a younger version of Vanessa. Vanessa becomes obsessed with her former husband’s young, naïve fiancé and tries to sabotage the upcoming nuptials. Is Vanessa, who is swimming through an alcoholic haze, just bitter and vengeful, or is something else at play? Meanwhile, Richard is protective and loving towards his future wife, but Nellie is beginning to have doubts.
Each character’s story is narrated from their perspective. What is real, what is not? The twists and turns cause misdirection, forcing you to keep guessing their ulterior motives- who, of course, all have their secrets.
What Maisie Knewis the heartbreaking story of a young girl subject to the wrath of her parents’ divorce. Hungry with greed, Maisie’s parents (played by Julianne Moore & Steve Coogan) force their daughter into the midst of a heated custody battle. Thrown from house to house, parent to parent, Maisie is repeatedly neglected and forgotten, with no sense of stability in her life.
Her mother, a hot-headed rockstar and her father, a distant art dealer, are too wrapped up in their own little worlds to provide a supportable life for their young daughter. Living in environments subject to drug addiction and neglect, Maisie is often left in the care of her longtime nanny, and the mother’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård).
I didn’t expect to get so emotionally wrapped up in the sorrowful and whirlwind life of Maisie. The acting was spot on in this film–I adore Julianne Moore, and obviously Alexander Skarsgård. Maisie is played by newcomer Onata Aprile, who I thought did a fantastic job capturing the complexity of the character. All I wanted was for someone to give her the love and care she deserved. Heartbreakingly mesmerizing, grab some tissues, just in case.
Book – Sophie Diehl is a criminal attorney. She doesn’t want anything to do with her firm’s divorce cases, but when a senior partner asks her to step in to lend a hand, she can’t say no. And the client – Mrs. Mia Durkheim, nee Mia Mieklejohn, from one of the oldest families in New England – thinks Sophie is great and won’t have anyone else for her lawyer. The story unfolds through a collection of memos, letters, notes, and legal documents as the divorce gets longer and longer, messier and messier.
It sounds a little traumatizing, but most of the time it’s hilarious. Sophie and Mia are both smart, clever women, at two very different points in their lives: Sophie trying to get a handle on the beginning of her career, and Mia trying to get out of a marriage that’s grown stifling. The insults fly fast and heavy, usually in the direction of Mia’s soon-to-be-ex-husband, Daniel. Rieger puts her years of experience as a law professor to good use in this witty first novel. (I particularly liked the way she invented a whole New England state so that she could invent her own legal precedents.)
Book – Big Little Lies, by the author of the bestsellerThe Husband’s Secret, tells the story of the events leading up to a shocking death at an elementary school fundraiser. The tale revolves around a trio of women whose children are starting kindergarten at Pirriwee Public School in Australia. On orientation day we are introduced to Madeline, who is bold, humorous, and maternal. “Oh Calamity!” The husband who walked out on her and their newborn daughter years ago has moved to Pirriwee Penisula with a new wife, and their daughter will be attending kindergarten with Madeline’s youngest child. Then we meet Jane, a young single mother whose vulnerability stimulates Madeline’s protective instincts. Lastly Celeste is introduced. She is beautiful and wealthy but somehow disengaged from life.
The friendship of these three women is galvanized when a kindergarten incident fractures the school community. The story is infused with delightful humor about all the little absurdities of parental life and school society. In addition, the author is artful in her presentation of serious social issues such as domestic abuse. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Caroline Lee. Her lively Australian accent boosted the humor and helped me to visualize the characters and their life in an ocean-side locale. Big Little Lies is likely to be a movie as well, Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon have picked up the screen rights.
Book – Divorce in England became available to the middle class for the first time in 1858, and one of the first cases was that of Robinson v. Robinson & Lane. Henry Robinson had read his wife’s diary while she was ill, and discovered it full of stories about her passionate love affair with a handsome young doctor. He sued for divorce as soon as he was able. Isabella Robinson’s defense argued that the diary was a work of fantasy and none of the affairs had actually happened. The court took three months to reach a verdict, and meanwhile the case became a sensation. Excerpts of Mrs. Robinson’s diary were printed in the papers – a lucky stroke for historian Kate Summerscale, as the actual diary has vanished.
Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace immerses you in the world of a middle-class Victorian housewife who desperately longs for something more in her life. The book reads almost like a novel, following first the events of Isabella Robinson’s diary and then those of the trial, while also describing the surrounding world – the mania for diary-writing, the salaciousness of the press, the nervousness about the new divorce courts. For those who want more of the same, Emma Donoghue’s novel The Sealed Letter is a fictional tale of Victorian divorce which references the Robinson case.