|Anne Boleyn: a spouse in need of a ghostwriter? |
Today’s entry appears on the Guardian Books Blog, and arose because I was intrigued by the idea of marriages where one party has done all the talking – whether this is because one real-life spouse is considerably more famous than the other, or because a literary work is usually written from just one point of view. Jean Rhys pointed out that there are other stories to tell, when she burgled Jane Eyre to write The Wide Sargasso Sea.
This is part of the piece, with links to relevant blog entries:
You can see how these authors get inspired: sometimes when you're reading, you're just longing to hear from the other half of a dysfunctional marriage. Hence the sub-genre of royal wives, as instanced in Monica Ali's strange and haunting Untold Story, which imagined a different life for that most famous of 20th century spouses, Princess Diana. Philippa Gregory, meanwhile, has been busy giving voices to the wives of many English kings in her inventive and innovative historical fiction: the Other Boleyn Girl and the Cousins' War sequence.
Literary husbands are plainly fertile ground. But though Gaynor Arnold created a fictionalised version of Charles Dickens's marriage in Girl in a Blue Dress, very much presenting poor sad Catherine Dickens's point of view, there aren't many husband versions or re-imaginings. Is this because men dominate stories in the first place?
Mrs Stoner looking stern?
Last year's cult classic Stoner by John Williams (rediscovered from 1965) showed Stoner's wife in such a bad light as to be unconvincing, but don't relationship counsellors say it's never just one person's fault … ? The maligned Edith might have a quite other view of the relationship, and her husband's infidelity….
Plenty of bad wives in literature are also shown as bad mothers – linking back to another Guardian piece on that topic earlier this year. Brenda Last from Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust is a prime example, along with the much-maligned Mrs Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
That’s quite a list of spouses we’d really like to hear from – no wonder the marriage thriller is the literary genre of the moment. And the film of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is due out soon and allegedly will have us all looking askance at our own partners….