All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Mrs. by Caitlin Macy

on March 20, 2018

Caitlin Macy
Simon & Schuster
2018, 352p
Uncorrected proof copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

In the rarified world of New York’s Upper East Side, coolly elegant Philippa Lye is the envy of all the mothers at the school gate. Despite a shadowy past, Philippa has somehow married a true ‘master of the universe’, the scion of the last family-held investment bank in the city. And although this puts her at the centre of this world of hedge funds and privilege, she refuses to conform.

Then, into her precariously balanced life, comes two women: Gwen Hogan, an awkward childhood acquaintance who uncovers an devastating secret about Philippa’s past, and Minnie Curtis, a newcomer whose frank revelations about her upbringing in Spanish Harlem and probing into the women’s private lives unsettles everyone.

When Gwen unwittingly leads her husband, a prosecutor in the US Attorney’s Office, to stumble over the connection between Philippa’s past and the criminal investigation he is pursuing at all costs, the whole delicate ecosystem of wealth and privilege becomes a tinder box set to explode.

Or ‘how the other half live’.

This book is very much being pushed as the ‘next Big Little Lies‘ but for me, it doesn’t have the warmth and charm of that particular novel. Nor the exciting plot either. Instead Mrs. is focused on the wealthy and elite of New York City and the cluster of parents around a prestigious kindergarten. It is the place to enrol your little darlings and the students are the offspring of hedgefund managers, money movers and shakers. Except for Mary, the daughter of Gwen and her husband Dan, a prosecutor for the US Attorney’s Office. Mary is there on scholarship and Dan’s $150k government salary puts them firmly middle class (which people say kind of like it’s a dirty word).

The novel revolves around mostly three women – Gwen, Philippa Lye a former model now married to a banking heir and Minnie Curtis, a woman who grew up in Spanish Harlem and has married into money and privilege. Both Gwen and Philippa have had previous dealings (or at least know of) Minnie’s husband and his shady behaviour and he’s also the focus of Dan’s current investigation. Gwen and Philippa also know each other from a childhood far removed from New York City, where Gwen was good friends with Philippa’s sister.

On paper, this book sounds great…..that’s the basis of a really intriguing and complex plot but unfortunately for me, it didn’t really read that way. I’m not going to deny it…..I found most of this book quite boring. Nothing happens for the longest time except a lot of bitching by various mothers about other mothers and awkward interactions. It doesn’t seem like any of these women are friends but yet they keep forcing themselves into each others proximity via school and really weird play dates (the one at Minnie’s is the weirdest thing ever).

I understand this is a character driven novel, not so much a plot one but for me, in a character driven novel, you at least need characters that interest you in their motives, their actions and interactions and none of this really happened in this book. The biggest issue is that it takes so long to get to the heart of the story. Philippa has this kind of secret that she eventually spills to Gwen one day in a park while their children play nearby which connects her to Minnie’s husband who is being investigated for insider trading by….Gwen’s husband. It’s a very small, tight circle and there’s a lot of false assumptions over connections and secrets and it all could’ve been interesting but by the time all these things were finally revealed I just almost didn’t really care what happened to anyone anymore. Philippa starts the book as such a mess – she turns up in a taxi to pick up her children without even enough money for the fare, despite being quite obviously very wealthy. She has a severe drinking problem. Her marriage is interesting, but isn’t explored at anywhere near the depth I would’ve liked. There are so many things that fall short for me in this – I don’t feel for Minnie, the newcomer in this circle of snobbery, I don’t really identify with Gwen either, who with her ponytail and youthful face is often mistaken for one of the nannies, nor am I enamoured by Philippa. If anything I feel for the kids being brought up in this world – and with some, that veil of privilege is already quite thick.

This is just not my sort of book. The writing is fine enough but I am not really the sort of person who enjoys this slice of society put under a microscope…….high New York society. I just don’t find their lives and problems all that interesting, especially the talk about their dubious financial dealings and how close many of them skate to flat out breaking the law in terms of investments and money making and talking about it like it’s all okay. Oh thankfully my husband avoided prosecution and now we can buy that new summer house in the Hamptons-style stuff. There’s such an innate sense that normal rules don’t really apply to them….Minnie’s husband is a prime sort of example. He’s a totally heinous human being but it’s only a surface portrayal too, it could’ve gone deeper into this. And in the aftermath as well.


Book #51 of 2018

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