Why Do Titles Feature Someone’s Wife?

I just read a novel called The Wife by Alafair Burke and when recording its completion on Goodreads, I was startled to discover how many books have ‘WIFE’ in the title. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? The question is germane, since my work in progress is tentatively called The Admiral’s Wife.

I was actually quite pleased when I came up with this title. It has a ring to it, I thought. Evocative of a certain sort of woman, possibly conjuring in the mind of readers a bit of scandal as well as something historical. But perhaps the word ‘wife’ also connotes possession, anonymity, and a person of lesser consequence than her husband. As if a woman is only of significance in relation to the man who has married her.

This was true, of course, in days gone by when women were considered chattels or property, creatures to be traded away for some sort of gain regardless of class. Let’s have a look at a few of them:

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain – a story about Hadley Richardson who marries Ernest Hemingway. There was no doubt about who had the upper hand in that relationship. (Read this one.)

The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison – A chilling psychological thriller about a marriage, a way of life, and how far one woman will go to keep what is rightfully hers. This one sounds as if the wife is in charge.

The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman – set in WWII Poland, the wife in this story helps her husband keep Jews alive by hiding them in various cages of the zoo and keeps alive an atmosphere of play and innocence even as Europe crumbled around her.

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin – the story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her marriage to famed aviator Charles Lindbergh. Anne was initially defined by her husband but ultimately developed her own strength and fame. (READ)

The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve – a woman receives word that a plane flown by her husband has exploded and afterwards confronts the secret life he led as she sets out to learn who her husband really was. (READ)

The Nineteenth Wife by David Ebershoff – the title is a clear indication of how wives are treated in this story about Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church.

There’s The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman (READ), The Secret Wife by Gill Paul, The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy, The Starter Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer, The Silent Wife, The Pocket Wife, The Crane Wife, The Doctor’s Wife, The Senator’s Wife, The Headmaster’s Wife … phew, the list on Goodreads continues for several pages.

Hmmm – just wondering whether I’ve inadvertently stumbled on a cliche for my title. What does this kind of title suggest to you?

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

 

 

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling-the-SunWhen you’ve had a blockbuster like The Paris Wife, I’m sure most writers would find writing the next novel rather daunting. The question of whether or not you could create that magic formula again would hang over every sentence written. But Paula McLain did not give up, instead she wrote Circling the Sun, a wonderful story about Beryl Markham, the first woman to fly solo east to west across the Atlantic.

I attended a book discussion last week where the accomplished Elaine Newton gave us her take on Circling the Sun. Ms. Newton’s discussions are much more than a book review for she delves into the context of the work – in this case early 20th century Kenya – the author’s personal and writing background, and the story of how the book came about. Oh, and yes, she does review the book as well.

Imagine a woman abandoned by her mother at the age of four, left to live with her father on a ranch many miles from Nairobi, raised partly by an indigenous family, thrown out of boarding school, rebellious, determined, stubborn. Well, you can imagine what fodder that is for a great story.

Beryl Markham’s life and times come alive in this fictionalized biography and Paula McLain has done superb research to accomplish this feat. She took four years to write Circling the Sun and might never have had the opportunity if not for an offhand mention from her now brother-in-law that she should read Markham’s memoir West With the Night. That book hooked McLain on the idea.

According to Elaine Newton, Paula McLain uses the people, dates, and main events as the ‘spine’ of her novel and sets about creating the interior life of her protagonist, imagining the protagonists motivations and personal insights and building them into the story. She fills in the gaps of the truth, finding gossip and innuendo and then deciding what makes most sense for the character she has come to know. McLain brings great skill with dialogue, suspense, pacing and authenticity. Newton also admires the structure of the novel, bookended as it is with Beryl’s harrowing flight across the Atlantic.

It’s an epic tale of a woman who slowly becomes the woman she wants to be despite the personal costs. A woman who dares to put freedom first.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET will be published by Lake Union on August 16, 2016.

Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.