The Senator's Wife

by Sue Miller

Friday, March 25, 2011

I remember picking this up in the bookshop a couple of years ago - it was all over the place as a Richard & Judy choice I think - and putting it back down again without buying it. This time I spotted it going cheap in a book clearance shop and did buy it because I’d really enjoyed reading The Lake Shore Limited a few months ago.

The story is told from two points of view. One of these is the viewpoint of the senator’s wife herself, Delia, but the main one is that of Meri, who moves into the house next door to her as a newlywed trying to find her niche in both a new place and her new role of wife. I like the changing viewpoints and the changes in time - much of the “present day” story takes place in the 1990s with sections going back to earlier in Delia’s life. I was surprised to read other reviews where people said they didn’t like the characters or the writing as I liked both very much. I didn’t always like the characters actions but I thought everything fit together well and everything was in character. I guess I like the way Miller incorporates so much everyday ordinariness into the story - the overall story is anything but ordinary but it is built up of regular components.

I can see why this is considered to be a real “book group” book - there is plenty to talk about in the portrayal of the relationships. The only part I thought was lacking was any real fleshing out of Meri’s husband Nathan who seemed for the most part to be a generic “ambitious young academic in New England”. Maybe that was deliberate.

I won’t go into the ending as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. Only that I thought something of the sort was inevitable and I thought it was pretty well signposted and since it wasn’t really a surprise to me it didn’t really shock me. I’m not sure if it was supposed to.

All in all, a really interesting read, and really very good. I liked it but didn’t find it as deep and complicated, or as satisfying, as The Lake Shore Limited. I’ll definitely be reading more of Miller’s books before too long.