This has all the hallmarks of a book I should love: an unreliable narrator, an unhappy housewife, comparisons to Shirley Jackson, a movie version in the making with Elisabeth Moss as the main character, and teasers about a final reveal/twist. But while it was an enjoyable read, it didn’t live up to those (arguably sky-high) expectations.
Mrs March lives a comfortable life as the wife of George March, a successful author. But after someone points out to Mrs March that the pitiable protagonist of George’s latest book bears a remarkable resemblance to her, Mrs March starts to spiral. As a woman deeply obsessed with appearances, she simply can’t bear the comparison, and soon starts to suspect that her husband has a dark side.
As I mentioned above, I have a soft spot for tales about unhappy housewives, especially those of the mid-20th century. Feito absolutely nails the character of Mrs March, using both conversations and internal thoughts to deftly paint a three-dimensional version of what is often a tired trope. To wit, when visiting an art museum in the beginning of the novel:
She tingled with the possibility as she prowled the cold, quiet halls that someone she knew might find her there, appreciating it all.”
But as well-formed as the characters are, I had three complaints about this novel – not all of which are fair. Firstly, there is a number of loose threads that never really get resolved. There is a subplot about Mrs March’s son drawing gruesome scenes, and their housekeeper leaving abruptly at one point, neither of which get an explanation or are very well tied into the rest of the story. Secondly, as far as unreliable narrators go, you clue on very early that not all is right with Mrs March, so it’s never really a question of whether she is imagining things or if she is on to something. Lastly, and unfairly, a lot of reviewers compare this book to Shirley Jackson’s amazing short stories, but those are in a different league.
Overall I still really enjoyed this, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.