The Good Wife Strikes Back by Elizabeth Buchan is the kind of book that a middle aged woman, tied down by a family who take her for granted and stuck in a dreary job, could read and begin imagining her own escape from real life.
The story is told by Fanny Savage, who is the wife of English politician Will Savage. Fanny has been a ‘good wife’ for over twenty years and gave up her own career in her father’s wine business to support Will’s ambitions. She regularly attends public engagements, undertakes behind the scenes work, dresses appropriately and never voices her true political opinions, except to Will.
During this time Fanny has also been virtually a single mother to her and Will’s daughter Cleo, and a carer for Will’s sister Meg, who is an alcoholic. Meg and her son Sasha also live with Fanny and Will.
Wine is Fanny’s true love and once Cleo leaves home to travel after she has finished her exams, Fanny realises she wants her freedom too.
There are a lot of secrets which come out during the telling of this story. I liked most of the characters, but was annoyed by Meg, who is a needy and manipulative woman who relies very heavily on Fanny. Will, although much more likeable than his sister, also needs Fanny much more than she needs him. I would have liked Fanny to have told Meg firmly to butt out of her and Will’s lives and grow up, and not to have allowed Will to use her the way he has, but if Fanny had followed my advice, there wouldn’t have been a story.
I really enjoyed Fanny’s voice in this novel. She has an Italian father and an English mother, and her words are very precise. I wanted her character to escape the confines that Will and Meg keep her in. I wanted her to visit Italy and resume her career and wear dresses without stockings.
I also really liked the cover art on this book, which sums up the characters perfectly. The trees are Cleo and Sasha, the basket of grapes represents Fanny’s father, the suitcase and hat is Fanny, the spilled wine has to be Meg and the sports car, separate to the others, is Will. The back cover has an Italian urn filled with flowers, which describes where Fanny would rather be and the iron depicts her actual life.
The Good Wife Strikes Back was quite an easy read and the story probably won’t stay with me, but while I was reading it, I enjoyed the escape. (Don’t think I’m identifying with Fanny, I love my job, love my husband and wouldn’t change a thing about my life, except to find a little more time to read).