Are you a literary fiction fan who is crime fiction-curious? Do you enjoy crime novels, but appreciate those that are on the more cerebral end of the mystery fiction spectrum? With a special focus on women’s issues, as well as on the arts, Natasha Bell’s His Perfect Wife is an ambitious, well-written, psychologically-complex debut that will resonate strongly with many women and provoke much discussion. His Perfect Wife would certainly make an interesting selection for Emma Watson’s Goodreads book club, “Our Shared Shelf”, and/or Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club on Audible.
WHAT IS HIS PERFECT WIFE ABOUT?
The novel opens with husband Marc Southwood speaking on the phone with British law enforcement about the fact that his wife is missing. Marc is a bookish academic and “Uni” professor, who lives with his two daughters, aged seven and ten, and his wife, Alexandra Southwood. Alexandra is a thirty-seven year old, part-time, art history lecturer at the same University, in the north of England, where her husband teaches.
Flash back to when Alexandra was younger: after earning both a BA and an MA from Cambridge, she left England to study art - sculpture, photography, installation, video, performance - in The United States. But then, with only one semester remaining in her pursuit of an MFA, Alexandra left her Chicago art school to return to England to be with her newish-at-the-time beau, Marc. In the years since, Marc and Alexandra have loved one another, and have created a beautiful family together, and Alexandra did indeed want to be with Marc when she left art school all those years ago. But we learn that Alexandra, being a very creative and philosophical person, who thinks about things deeply and artistically, and most definitely “out of the box”, has questioned her own life choices and self-actualization, or lack thereof, as so many have done.
Memories of her courtship with Marc, as well as stories of her family life, are juxtaposed with interactions that Alexandra is now having with the unnamed character who is holding her captive. As British law enforcement looks into Alexandra’s disappearance, Marc puts on his own detective hat, and begins to investigate, determined to find out what happened to his beloved.
His Perfect Wife is not a book to be read for fast-paced, casual entertainment. It is, for the most part, a slow burn of a crime novel that, while engaging and accessible, is meant to be savored as it explores the role of art and the artist, as well as the struggle of “perfect wives” and, especially, “perfect mothers” to find the time and the focus for creative endeavors that provide many with emotional and intellectual sustenance.
You may think that you know the direction His Perfect Wife is going to take, dear reader, but Ms. Bell has several surprises and twists and turns up her sleeve that most readers are unlikely to see coming! His Perfect Wife by Natasha Bell is an intelligent debut that I am still pondering!
Best for Crime Fiction Readers:
Who enjoy more literary crime fiction and mysteries.
Who are interested in the world of contemporary art.
Who appreciate mysteries and crime fiction with amateur detectives, though His Perfect Wife still includes police procedure (“the best of both worlds”).
Who enjoy crime fiction that features unreliable narrators.
Who appreciate thought-provoking, psychologically-complex character studies.
Pages: 336 (Paperback)
Length: 11 hrs. 31 mins. (Audio Book)
He thought he knew everything about her until she went missing.
Before she disappeared, Alexandra Southwood lived an average, happy life: devoted to her wonderful husband, Marc, and caring for her two beautiful daughters. But now, held in a room against her will, Alexandra is forced to think about all she's lost, and imagine how Marc and her daughters are coping in the wake of her disappearance. She's shown news clips of Marc, desperately appealing to the public for information on her whereabouts. She tortures herself with visions of her family's devastated new reality. And as she envisions Marc's distress, she can't help but remember their courtship, their marriage--all that he saved her from and all that they've built together.
Marc's pain is visceral. He thinks of nothing but her. Even when the police discover Alexandra's bloody belongings by the river, turning their missing-persons case into a murder investigation, he cannot accept that she is lost to him. He shifts from total despair to frantic action, embarking on his own journey through the dark maze of secrets she kept and passions he never understood. Following a trail that leads him to find answers to questions he never meant to ask, he's forced to confront how frighteningly little he's grasped about the woman he loves.
HIS PERFECT WIFE is a shocking psychological portrait, an original and unrelenting thriller that ultimately proves how unknowable even those closest to us can be.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Natasha Bell grew up in Somerset and studied English literature at the University of York. She holds an MA in the humanities from the University of Chicago and an MA in creative writing from Goldsmiths. She lives in southeast London.
MINM Overall Rating: 5/5 Stars
Please Note: Some readers may find that they have to suspend disbelief a bit, and that the denouement is just a tad too…..”extraordinary”. But the writing, especially for a debut, is just so good, and the plot, so deeply considered, that I cannot, in good conscience, award The Perfect Wife with anything less than a Five Star Rating.
I was sent a free, paperback edition of His Perfect Wife by the publisher. Thank you, Crown Publishing! This review is the honest opinion of Mystery in Minutes.