Here are three words that land with a thunk: “sex,” “writing” and also “identification.” Yet in “The Wife,” Meg Wolitzer has actually fashioned a light-stepping, streamlined novel from simply these dolorous, bitter-sounding themes. Maybe that’s bereason she’s collection them all smoldering: Rage could be the signature emotion of the powerless, however in Wolitzer’s hands, rage is additionally incredibly funny.

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As the book opens up, Joe and Joan Castlemale are on a plane to Helsinki, where Joe is to obtain a prestigious literary prize. Joan, the narrator, tells us that her husband also is “one of those males that very own the world” and also defines him via a nice mixture of wifely regard and satirical distance: “Tright here are many kind of arrays of this sort of man: Joe was the writer version, a short, wound-up, slack-bellied novelist that almost never slept, who loved to consume runny cheeses and also whisessential and also wine … who acquired a lot of his style from ‘The Dylan Thomas Handbook of Personal Hygiene and also Etiquette.’ “

“The Wife” is additionally a movie for which Glenn Cshed has actually obtained an Osautomobile nomination for ideal actress.

The story of the Castleguy marriage is told in a series of flashbacks. Joan, paincompletely alive to the hackneyed nature of their complement, recalls their at an early stage days: “It kills me to say it, however I was his student as soon as we met. There we were in 1956, a typical couple, Joe intense and also concentrated and also tweedy, me a fluttering budgie circling him again and aobtain.” The entire novel, in reality, is a type of paean to the concept that clichés are clichés bereason they’re regularly true. The pathetic point about the younger version of Joan is not that her story is unique; it’s the reality that there were — and also still are — so many kind of Joans, circling favor so many budgies.

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A promising writer, Joan abandons her very own career in the service of her husband’s. Joe, meanwhile, roars through life. He chases various other women, drinks vats of booze, torments himself over his literary stature and also happily ignores his children. In relating all this, Wolitzer deploys a calm, seamless humor not uncovered in her previous novels. The jokes don’t barge in and tap us on the shoulder as they did in “This Is Your Life” or “Surrender, Dorothy.” Instead, they progressively accumulate, producing a rueful, sardonic atmosphere. “Wives,” Joan tells us in a typical aside, “are the sad sacks of any writers’ conference.” She is just as sharp on Joe’s self-involvement:

“The guys that own the people don’t acquire to execute that by being magnanimous and overly interested in other people. They acquire to perform it by taking treatment of themselves along the way. They stoke the fire of their own reputations, and also sometimes various other civilization come by, asking: What’s that you’re doing there?

“Oh, stoking the fire of my reputation.

“Can I help?

“Undoubtedly. Go get some timber.”

At some point, Joan allows us in on the Castlemans’ trick. And as soon as we know the fact, we want to go earlier and also research the carapace of justification, blind-eye-turning and also bitter regret that is Joan’s background as a wife. The book represents a actual step forward for Wolitzer, and its success lies in its reticence. Joan defiantly leaves us wanting even more, whereas Wolitzer’s other heroines left us wanting possibly a teensy little bit less. As a portrait of deception, this tiny, intelligently made novel rivals “The Dangerous Husband also,” by Jane Shapiro, and also John Lanchester’s “Debt to Pleasure.”

But if “The Wife” is a puzzle and also an entertainment, it’s additionally a near heartbreaking document of feminist realpolitik. In the modernist milieu the Castlemans inhalittle bit, to be a woguy writer is immediately to be lesser, to produce occupational faintly pincreased as “effective in its own appropriate.” Oh, tbelow are exceptions, notably Mary McCarthy. She shows up below as a type of Lady Writer fetish object that the male authors finger once they desire to demonstrate an appreciation of the weaker sex. “But what,” Joan asks, “occurred to the talented womales who lacked sharp cheekbones or an ease in the universe?” She herself is the answer to this question. The main occasion of the book is a nonevent: the moment when Joan Castlemale offered up her own composing to be a wife.