Behind every great man stands an even greater woman

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Behind every great man stands an even greater woman
Behind every great man stands an even greater woman

The novel tells the story of the long and stormy marriage between the famous writer Joe Castleman and his wife Joan. He is one of those men who rule the world, but have no idea how to take care of themselves and the person next to them. Joan, who for 40 years has neglected her own qualities and skills to serve him, suddenly decides to end it. " The Wife" is a wise and highly emotional story about that critical moment when we see the ironic smile of fate. Because sometimes the very life we fought for and thought we wanted is exactly what we have to give up in order to move forward.

Meg Wolitzer was born in Brooklyn, New York. The author of twelve novels, many of which are New York Times bestsellers, The Wife is among her most ambitious works to date, and the film of the same name is a hypnotic experience – an apologia for femininity, self-reflection and inner liberation. The director of the film is Björn Runge, and Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce shine in the lead roles.



The moment I decided to leave it, the one where I said to myself "That's enough", we were ten thousand five hundred meters above the ground, aiming forward but giving the illusion of stillness and peace. Just like our marriage, I could point out, but why ruin everything right now? Here we are, sitting in the luxury of first class, relatively detached from worries; there was no turbulence and the sky was clear, and somewhere in our midst, as nothing, was stationed an air force control officer, disguised as an ordinary passenger, who must have been eating greasy nuts from a small cup or completely absorbed in the zombifying prose of the in-flight magazine. The drinks were served even before take off and we sat with our heads back. Women in uniform carried baskets back and forth down the aisle like some sort of sexy little Red Riding Hood.

– Would you like some biscuits, Mr. Castleman? the brunette asked, leaning towards him with a serving tong in hand, and as her breasts slid forward and then retreated, I could see the ancient mechanism of arousal kicking into action in him as well as a pencil sharpener, a sight I'd grown used to. witnessed thousands of times over all these decades. "Mrs. Castleman?" - the woman then asked me, she remembered belatedly, but I refused. I didn't want her biscuits or anything else.

We were heading towards the end of our marriage, aiming for the moment when I would pull the plug, turn my back on the man I had lived with year after year. We traveled to Helsinki, Finland, a place no one thinks about unless they're listening to Sibelius or lying on the hot and humid sauna bars or eating venison. The cookies were passed out, the drinks spilled, and video screens were lowered all around me. Right now, no one on the plane was obsessed with death, unlike earlier when they were traumatized by the deafening roar, the stench of fuel, and the distant screeching chorus of the furies inhabiting the engines, the minds of everyone on board – economy and business class and the few of God's elect-united as one and lifted this machine into the air as well as an audience calling upon the power of its consciousness for the medium's spoon to bend. The spoon, of course, bends absolutely every time, its tip poking down like a weighted tulip flower. And while planes don't take off absolutely every time, this one did tonight. The moms pulled out fun books and little Cheerius plastic bags with a fine dust of crushed breakfast cereal on the bottom; the businessmen opened their laptops and waited for the flickering screens to settle down. If he was on board, the phantom controller would eat stretched out in his seat and place his gun under the static-charged artificial fabric of the blanket, our plane would have gone up to hover at the desired altitude, and I finally decided to leave your husband. Definitely. Definitely. One hundred percent. Our three children were gone, gone, gone and there would be no change of heart, no concessions.

Suddenly he turned his eyes to me, looked into my face and said:

– What's up? You look a little…

– Nope. It's nothing - I answered him. “Anyway, nothing worth discussing now.

He took my answer as satisfactory enough and turned his attention back to the plate of chocolate chip cookies, a soft belch causing him to instantly puff out his cheeks just like a frog. It was hard to trouble this man, he had everything he could possibly ever need.

He was Joseph Castleman, one of those people who have the world in their pocket. You know the type I mean: those self-proclaimed giant sleepwalkers who roam the earth and run over men, women, furniture, entire villages. Why should they care? Everything belongs to them, the seas and the mountains, the boiling volcanoes, the raging rivers. There are many varieties of this type of person. Joe was the literary variant: a short, rotund, pot-bellied novelist who hardly ever slept, enjoyed soft cheeses, whiskey, and wine, which he used to swallow the pills that kept his blood lipids from congealing like yesterday's fat in pan. He was also the funniest possible person I knew, couldn't take care of himself or anyone else, and took much of his style from Dylan Thomas' Handbook of Personal Hygiene and Etiquette. He sat next to me on Finnair Flight 702, and every time the brunette offered him something, he took it from her-every candy, every roasted nut, a pair of disposable, spongy slippers, and a steaming terry towel rolled up tightly. If this sultry cookie-dispensing woman had bared herself to the waist and offered him her breast, if she'd pressed a nipple to his mouth with the unwavering authority of La Leche, a leading nursing league, he would have taken it without question.

As a rule, men who rule the world are sexually hyperactive, though not necessarily, with their wives. In the sixties, Joe and I would jump into any bed we could find, sometimes even during lulls at cocktail parties, barricade someone's bedroom door, and throw ourselves on a mountain of coats. People were coming and drooling because they wanted the outerwear, and we were giggling and whispering to each other as we struggled to button up and get ourselves in shape before we let them in.

We haven't experienced anything like this in a long time, although if you looked at us here on this plane to Finland, you'd think we were content to still be touching each other's softened bodies at night.

– Don't you want an extra pillow? he asked me.

– No, I hate those doll pillows – I answered him. – Oh, and don't forget to stretch your legs, as Dr. Krenz ordered.

You'd look at us-Joan and Joe Castleman of Weathermill, New York, currently sitting in seats 3A and 3B-and you'd know exactly why we're traveling to Finland. You might even envy us-him for all the power packed tightly into his massive, sedentary body, and me for my twenty-four-hour access to him, like a famous and successful writer husband is like a department store for his wife, a place where she can at any time receive a great deal of astonishing intelligence, wit and excitement.

People usually thought of us as a "good" couple, and I guess once, a long time ago, in the era when the cave paintings were sketched on the rough walls of the Lascaux cave, when the land was not yet mapped and everything was seemed hopeful, that would be true. But too quickly we have moved from the glamor and bliss inherent in every young couple to the verdant quagmire of the "afterlife," as it is tactfully called. Although I'm now sixty-four and about as invisible to men as a cloud of dust in the air, I was once a slender blonde with large breasts and a certain glow that drew Joe to me like some hypnotized chicken.

I'm not flattering myself; Joe has always been attracted to women, all types, ever since 1930 when he arrived in the world through his mother's birth canal. Lorna Castleman, the overweight mother-in-law I had never known, was a sentimentally poetic and obsessive person who loved her son like an obsessive lover. (On the other hand, some of the men who rule the world were neglected during their childhoods-left without lunch sandwiches in dreary schoolyards.)

He was loved not only by Lorna, but by her two sisters, who shared their Brooklyn apartment with them, and also by Mims, Joe's grandmother, a woman of stool build whose claim to fame rested on her ability to prepare " wickedly delicious roast beef'. His father, Martin, a perpetually sighing and unfixed man, died of a heart attack in his shoe shop when Joe was seven, leaving him captive to this wondrous female civilization.

He was informed of his father's death in a very typical way. Joe came home from school, found the apartment unlocked, and entered. There was no one at home, which was unusual for a household invariably inhabited by one woman or another, dreaming in the bent posture of a perpetually busy forest spirit. Joe sat down at the kitchen table and ate his afternoon snack of yellow sponge cake in the absent-minded way children do, crumbs clinging to his chin and lips.

Soon the apartment door swung open and the women poured in. Joe heard a cry, a loud crash, and then they appeared in the kitchen and crowded around the table. Their faces were puffy, their eyes red, and their carefully styled hair disheveled. It was clear to him that something extraordinary had happened, and a thrilling sense of drama rose within him, almost pleasant at first, though that quickly changed.

Lorna Castleman knelt in front of her son's chair, as if about to propose.

“Oh, my brave little boy,” she said in a hoarse whisper, brushing the crumbs from his lips as she did so. – Now it's just us.

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