The Sunday Salon

A sweltering Sunday here in southwest Florida, but of course I expected nothing less in the middle of June.  Once again I bow down in gratitude to the inventor of air conditioning ~ I am eternally grateful.

I’m smack dab in the middle of two absolutely marvelous books.  Here’s how that happened…I was two thirds of the way through So Much For That, Lionel Shrivers latest novel which stares square into the eyes of the cost of living (literally).  But then it was time to get on the plane, and I’ve sort of forsworn traveling with actual books since I discovered the joys of traveling with an e-reader.  So, loaded up and ready to read was The Reliable Wife.  Though I was dying to find out how Shriver’s novel was going end up, I decided to leave it behind for the few days I’d be gone.

(Speaking of the e-reader, you might recall I had some difficulty with my Sony device a while back.  After I downloaded the latest update to the software, it refused open on my computer.  It’s still not working on my Sony computer, however, it works just fine on my husband’s Toshiba laptop.  Nothing Sony support advised has corrected the problem, including de-installing the entire program, which meant I lost the books I had already downloaded.  Thankfully I had read all of them, but still…At any rate, the whole experience has made me extremely wary, and has cemeted my resolve to stick to physical books except when traveling, at which time I will arm my reader with a few titles from the library to last  me through the trip.)

Enough about my less than reliable e-reader.   Back to  books, particularly The Reliable Wife, which  was nothing like I expected.   This quasi- gothic tale of Ralph Truitt and the woman who answers his advertisement for a “reliable wife” is brim full with longing and desire and flat out passion.  Amidst the stark setting of an early 20th century Wisconsin winter, the pent up emotions of Truitt and Catherine Land burn like a bonfire in the wilderness.  There is little of purity in their relationship, for each comes to the other with dark secrets and a horrific hidden agenda, yet the love that develops between them seems the only beacon of hope in an otherwise grim and hopeless reality. 

What drives Truitt and Catherine is the desire to be loved, to belong to someone, the dream of family long lost to them.  Truitt desperately seeks his son, a young man who is really the product of his first wife’s affair, but upon whom he has affixed all hopes and dreams of a lasting legacy, despite the manner in which he brutalized the boy during his childhood.  Catherine’s hope of finding her younger sister Alice and rescuing her from the life of prostitution and poverty into which she has willingly thrown herself, is the anchor to the one happy memory she has of her childhood, a summer afternoon carriage ride with Alice and their parents.  It is these dreams that have carried Truitt and Catherine thus far, dreams that no amount of wealth seem to assuage.

There is an unremitting sense of darkness in this book, and I find myself inwardly sighing in sadness at the end of these sections, watching these two characters sink into hopelessness.  Now, nearing the final third of the novel, a glimmer of hope has arisen, and my eyes have been racing over each page, my heart quickening at the possibility of redemption, perhaps even of  happiness.  With a tall glass of iced tea and  cool breeze from the ceiling fan beckoning, I’m off to find out what happens.

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11 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon

  1. I ended up with two books simultaneously because, like you, if I’m traveling I refuse to bring along books since I have my Kindle.

    Also, I must say, I have had no interest in reading the Reliable Wife until you shared your thoughts on it.

  2. I absolutely loved The Reliable Wife. It surprised me because it was so dark, but then again, maybe that’s what I liked: being surprised. That was a novel that I could not predict, and perhaps it’s jaded of me, but so often I can guess exactly what’s going to come next. The other thing I loved was the mood he created, such a description of Wisconsin winters! Finally, I guess I admired Ralph. I thought it should almost be called The Reliable Husband because of him.

    • It was the most atmospheric novel I’ve read in a long time. The mood was indeed marvelous, all that frozen winter giving way to spring and new beginnings.

      Ralph was quite the surprise. All that passion in such a steady man.

  3. Well, despite my Kindle, I end up traveling with 3 or 4 paper books too. I tend to use the Kindle as a backup in case I run through my actual books. Defeats the purpose, I know. Oh well.

    I’ve got a copy of Reliable Wife laying around here somewhere….it’s one of those I intended to read immediatly after buying, but then got distracted (imagine that).

  4. I had some qualms with this one–mostly the relentless sex scenes which got really old after a while. Overall, though, I liked it a lot, and I found it very memorable which seems to be the true test for my reading lately.

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