Monday, October 5, 2015

The Headmaster's Wife - Thomas Christopher Greene

The Headmaster's WifeThis novel was split very evenly into two halves: one half that I hated and one half that I liked quite a bit.  I can imagine that the first half might bother some people quite a bit; it definitely rubbed me in a ton of wrong ways--and I definitely don't consider myself a sensitive reader.

So, Arthur Winthrop is the main character in the first half, which is written in first person.  Arthur is found naked in Central Park, wandering through the snow.  When the police take him in and ask him what he was doing, he reveals a strange tale that involves rape (or, at the very least, coerced sex) and murder amongst other less-than-scrupulous activities.  In the second half, Arthur's wife Elizabeth is the main character.  Her part is written in third person.  You definitely have to read both parts to understand the first.  Reading the first part, I could tell that something was off, but I wasn't sure what, and even knowing that something was off, that some of the things that Arthur remembered couldn't be quite true, I still didn't like it.  The fact that Arthur was relating all of these things, that he wholeheartedly believed he had done these things and was okay with it, and that we were still supposed to like him, didn't agree with me at all.  If Arthur had shown real remorse for what he had done, or believed he'd done, it might have might have been different, but as it  I can't be sympathetic toward someone who legitimately believes he has committed rape and murder, and yet only cares about being let go so he can continue to walk around the park naked.

On the other hand, I liked Elizabeth's part--mostly.  It still had some parts that I really frowned upon (there is no excuse for adultery in my opinion) but, overall, Elizabeth was a much more sympathetic character than Arthur, and the reality of the second part agreed with me much more than the strangeness of Arthur's.  The second part is the one that makes everything sensible, and it did make me grateful that I kept reading, though it didn't make the first part sit any better.  The language through most of this was lovely, but the whole conception...I don't know.  It encapsulated a lot of things that I feel could have been handled much, much better, and overall left a bad taste in my mouth and a sick feeling in my stomach.  I don't think there's much more to say about it than that.  The second part was better than the first, but couldn't fully redeem it, and because of that (combined with a wishy-washy ending) I felt this one was severely lacking.

2 stars out of 5.

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