Challenges: What’s in a name; Support your local library
Lately I have been making my way through two “serious” books, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (tortoise pace) and The Savage Detectives which is excellent but requires you (or me anyway) to put in some effort and to concentrate. In between I thought it would be fun to pick something just because it looked nice, a book that would literally turn the pages by itself.
Enter The Senator’s Wife, the newest novel by Sue Miller and the first that I have read. I chose this because it had a lovely cover and it looked like a good character read.
The story centres around two women, Meri and Delia, their relationships and the compromises they make for the men they love.
Meri is 36 years old and in the space of ten months has met and married Nathan. Together they have moved to a new city and as the story opens, are house hunting. Nathan’s mother is helping with finance and Meri feels very much like a passenger in the whole process. This is already a pattern in their young relationship and one that Meri is not comfortable with:
“But as she releases his hand, then as they sip the last of the champagne, as they leave the bar and head upstairs, she is thinking, as she has at separate moments ever since she married Nathan, of how separate she and he are. She is thinking that she doesn’t want to be grateful to him for what he allows her. She doesn’t want not to have been consulted about the house.”
Delia is Meri and Nathan’s new neighbour. Her husband Tom is a well known Senator, now retired. Nathan was impressed by the potential to be neighbours with the Senator and this was a major factor in his decision to buy the house. He is disappointed to find the Senator is hardly ever around.
Delia is a wonderful character. At 75, she is gracious, elegant, charming and wise. She attracts people and Delia is drawn to her. Below is Meri’s impression upon first meeting her:
“This old woman – she has turned to Meri again – is someone who was a beauty once, Meri would put money on it. A beauty of the handsome, commanding sort. Maybe a little intimidating, actually. She probably still draws attention walking down the street. Her face is deeply lined but she has strong, regular, lovely features. She’s wearing bright red lipstick. Her hair is a mass of curly white, and there’s a quality in her expression and carriage of energy, of curiosity and sexual power. She’s dressed irregularly for someone her age – a slightly clingy print blouse and flared skirt. Flat hemp-soled shoes. French looking”
The two women become friends and Meri finds a type of calmness and sanctuary in Delia’s home and in her presence.
The latter part of the book is more about the separate stories of the women rather than their relationship with each other. There is a reason for this but I preferred the earlier part and would have been satisfied if this had been developed more. This isn’t a criticism just my preference for the way it could have panned out.
I would absolutely recommend this book to anybody who loves a character story, about relationships. I was glued to it and loved Sue Miller’s writing style. I will definitely be looking out for her other books.