Book Review: The Wife


The Wife by Meg Wolitzer


The phrase ‘behind every great man is a great woman’ (a slogan from the 1960/70s feminist movement) sums up this story entirely. Whereas this saying sounds somewhat antiquated today, The Wife provides a vivid account of the professional power men had over women in mid-late 20th century, in turn highlighting just how far we have come.


The story explores the inequitable marriage of college student Joan to future literary star Joe Castleman. We follow the relationship from the gloomy Manhattan apartment where Joe’s career is born, to the first class cabin of an aeroplane destined for Helsinki some forty years later, where Joe is to receive the much acclaimed Helsinki prize for fiction.


The story highlights the gender politics of the literary world in the 1950s - 1970s, where female talent was overlooked and men were treated like kings. Wolitzer chronicles Joan’s ever compromising position of ‘wife to the star', and how this role crushes her dreams of becoming an author in her own right. She sacrifices her freedom for the benefit of Joe’s somewhat unrealistic literary ambitions and demanding ego.


Whilst there is a predictable twist at the end, the build up is exciting, fascinating and written in an honest and witty manner. Wolitzer ventures into the depths of Joan’s mind, detailing everything she has come to detest about Joe. Her feelings are depicted with an amusing hint of sarcasm, and are understandable after the years of philandering and unpleasantness she has experienced.  


The read highlighted the improvements we have experienced in gender equality between then and now. It gives perspective on how the change to deep rooted, outdated mindsets of previous generations takes time and tremendous effort. It encouraged me take pride in the small changes that are made everyday, and trust that we are moving towards a peak in awareness and action for gender equality in the professional world. 


I flew through this book and would recommend it to anyone looking to experience some perspective on equality within the workplace and in marriage. Wolitzer’s honest and frank writing was refreshing and entertaining.