All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Pilot’s Wife – Anita Shreve

on September 2, 2010

Kathryn thinks that life is pretty good. She’s married to the handsome pilot Jack, they have a good marriage and they have a wonderful 15yo daughter Mattie. They live in a beautiful house overlooking the ocean on the east coast of the US, their ‘dream house’. Jack is flying the Boston-Heathrow route which seems to make him happy and although there are long times apart, Kathryn is content.

Her world is blown apart when she receives a visitor at 3am with the news that her husband’s plane has exploded. Union rep Robert has rushed to be the one to tell her as there are some.. complications in that it seems like the plane exploded. They’re saying pilot error, then they’re saying suicide…

Kathryn, quite rightly, falls completely apart at this news. She’s just lost her husband and even worse, they’re saying he could’ve chosen to take his own life and the lives of 103 other people with him. She cannot believe it, will not believe it if for no other reason than their daughter Mattie. Struggling to communicate with Mattie who is going through the difficult daughter phase, Kathryn tries very hard to be supportive and strong for her daughter while all the time questioning just how well she knew the man she’d been married to for over 15 years.

Kathryn is right to question just how well she knew Jack. She remembers things, little things, which on their own aren’t too suspicious. Put together and coupled with his periods of occasional distance from her, she begins to wonder. Was her husband leading some sort of secret life? The results of her investigation are heart-breaking for her. You can’t be angry at a dead man, you can’t scream at him and abuse him for his betrayals.

How well you really know someone is a topic not so much gently inserted into this book – it’s more rammed in with a bulldozer. Not only is it proved that Kathryn didn’t know her own husband and that he was keeping pretty much, a whole second life from her and that he was a different person in that life, it’s also outlined that she doesn’t much know what is going on with her teenage daughter. I’m not too sure this is really all that necessary – what mother does know everything that’s going on with their teenage daughter? It’s a teenage thing to keep details from your parents. When I was 15 I’d have rather died than tell my mother all the stuff we were getting up to – which actually, wasn’t much! But I still certainly wouldn’t have told her!

Because the novel takes place over a very short period from time from when Kathryn is woken to be told the news, with only several flashbacks from her point of view about meeting Jack, marrying Jack and one or two other memories involving Jack, I don’t feel I ever got a feel for either of the characters. Jack was like some Top Gun-eque hero in aviator shades and possessing a detached demeanor and Kathryn was just grief and anger. I never got a feel for their relationship in its early days, or during the middle years, or towards the end. There were flashes, but it wasn’t enough for me to feel sucked in by Jack and then devastated by his betrayal and deception. Was he so good at deception or did Kathryn just turn a blind eye? Give up too easily? The few times she did try to question Jack about his distance from her, he said one or two things and brushed her off and that seemed to be it. Did she believe it because it was what she wanted to hear? Or was Jack just that convincing?

The plot as to why the plane went down was a bit far fetched for me. It just didn’t seem very well thought out and that whole section was rushed – literally explained and over with in a scene. I felt that if that was the way the author was going to go, then some time should’ve been given to the organisation behind it, the people who set these events in motion. Instead it’s almost like an afterthought, thrown in offhand just so the reader knows technically how the plane went down. But there’s quite a lot left unanswered as to why. It’s all a bit vague and glossed over.

This was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and honestly, I expected something a bit better. Something deeper, that engaged me more. Something better I suppose, although that may be an unfair word. It wasn’t an unenjoyable novel, it just wasn’t as enjoyable as I expected. I expected a deeper exploration of marriage, of the connection between Jack and Kathryn from the beginning and what, if anything, were the clues it was dwindling, even if only on one side. I would’ve liked a lot more insight into Jack, to know something about how he thought, his motivations. This was a good storyline with a lot of potential to really be a wonderful narrative on how two people in a marriage can feel so differently. In the end for me, it just wasn’t as involved as I would’ve liked.


(Book #60 of my 75 Book Challenge)

3 responses to “The Pilot’s Wife – Anita Shreve

  1. Shannon says:

    Fantastic review, as always Bree 😀

    This sounds pretty much exactly like what I thought it would be like – it sounds as self-indulgent as I expected. I was stunned to learn that it was up for the Orange Prize!

  2. Can you believe I still have 3 Anita Shreve novels to read? We actually own these ones, so I feel I have to *sigh* I couldn’t believe it was up for the Orange Prize either! Very disappointing

  3. Rohit Nanda says:

    An enjoyable read The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by “to read” list.

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