Tuesday, November 24, 2009
A Reliable Wife
A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick, is the story of how Catherine Land answers a rather pathetic sounding classified ad placed by a lonely, tormented rich man. From the beginning of her correspondence with him, Catherine is up to no good at all: she plans on slowly poisoning Ralph Truitt and having his fortune for herself.
Automatically, I expected this tale to turn into one of those beautiful, gradual love stories in which Catherine falls in love with Ralph and realizes the dream of having both love and money in her life. However, the story involves other people who make the plot more complicated, but not more interesting. In other words, I'm not raving about this book. I found the writing style to be incongruent with the time period, which was just after the turn of the century (1908), and I felt that the characters were not very fleshed out. Their past lives were told in a quick, glancing way, while the flowers Catherine loved so much were described in lush detail. There is a climatic scene near the end that seems to drag on and on, and just before the too-happy ending, the author actually beats into the reader what this story has been all about. Just in case she missed it.
One of the themes of Goolrick's book is that life in Wisconsin was harsh for most people back then, and people went mad and did insane things. This is true, but parts of this tale seemed either too unlikely or not explained well enough. Goolrick also commits repetition of information, which I found to be very annoying, besides being a detriment to the movement of the story.
I feel so weird for panning this book! It's not that Robert Goolrick is a bad writer, it's that this particular story was executed poorly. Despite its flaws, I did not have trouble finishing it, but I did wince as I did so. This is my humble opinion after hearing such good things about this book.
So don't throw tomatoes at me!