Monday, March 15, 2010

Review: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Title: A Reliable Wife
Author: Robert Goolrick
Genre: Historical/Psychological Suspense
Publisher: Hachette, 2009


On a freezing Wisconsin winter's day in 1907 wealthy businessman Ralph Truitt waits on the platform for the train to arrive. In his hand he holds the photograph and letter of the young woman he has chosen from the replies to his advertisement for a 'reliable wife'.
Ralph is a lonely man......."he was fifty-four years old and despair had come to Ralph as an infection, without his even knowing it. He could not pinpoint the moment at which hope left his heart".

As the train nears its destination Catherine Land removes the fashionable and colourful clothes she is wearing and replaces them with plain and prim garb. She is not the woman in the photograph, nor is she the 'simple, honest woman' she describes herself as in the letter. She is a survivor ......"There was going on, as she had always gone on, without much joy, against her will, against her instincts, without the stomach for it, but on and on and on, without relief, without release, without a hand to reach out and touch her heart."

Ralph and Catherine begin their relationship on a foundation of lies and deception........neither is who they pretend to be. I really liked the way the author constantly used the symbolism of the winter environment to reflect the human condition......on the surface their life experiences have left Ralph and Catherine with frozen emotions ,deep loneliness and a sense of hopelessness but beneath the cold exterior lies something else.
Much of the story is about what is going on inside them both..........seething with lust , depravity and repressed passions,  desires and murderous intent , at times it blazes with an intensity which is almost surrealistic. If I have one criticism it's that I did find some of Ralph's inner fantasies a bit too repetitious and thus tedious to read.

Robert Goolrick has a writing style that is often quite simple and stark yet still conveys a perfect sense of time and place and very evocative imagery. The atmosphere he creates is dark, almost Gothic which does bring new life to the much used 'mail order bride' theme.

The cover of the book reminded me of the Bette Midler song "The Rose" which ends with the words

When the night has been too lonely
and the road has been too long
and you think that love is only for the lucky
and the strong
Just remember in the winter far beneath the winter snows
lies the seed that with the sun's love
in the spring becomes the rose.

Sums up what this book is about...........I liked it.........liked it a lot.

Year of the Historical 2010 Reading Challenge


  1. Historical fiction and suspense? Sign me up! This sounds like a great book, I'll be sure to check it out.

    from Une Parole

  2. I liked this novel, too.
    This cover is much better than the one I read.

  3. Hm, I wonder what the real deal is behind those 2. It sounds interesting

  4. I have this one too with a different cover (I like yours better). I am excited to read this one.

  5. favourite combination too but this one is more psych/suspense with an historical setting.

    Kathy - seems to be quite a few different covers but I like this one.

    Blodeuedd - it is interesting. I haven't given anything away although I've seen some reviews that do which is a pity.

    Sheila - I hope you enjoy it. Have the feeling its the sort of book that will receive mixed reviews and there'll be some who don't like it at all.

  6. I'm very curious about this one, glad that you liked it. The theme pretty much sounds very interesting!