Mrs March by Virginia Feito
|Mrs March by Virginia Feito|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A dark, unsettling thriller which you might not enjoy but which you will appreciate having read. Cautiously recommended on that basis.|
|Pages: 304||Date: August 2021|
|Publisher: Fourth Estate|
The problem began just after the publication of George March's most successful novel to date. Everyone but Mrs March (we know her first name only on the last page) seemed to either be reading it or had already done so. Every day Mrs March went to the local patisserie to buy olive bread but on that particular morning, Patricia asked, as she was wrapping the bread, but isn't this the first time he's based a character on you? She mentioned that Johanna, the principal character had 'her mannerisms. Perhaps this would not have mattered, except for the fact that Johanna is the whore of Nantes - a weak, plain, detestable, pathetic, unloved, unloveable wretch.
A more confident woman could have laughed the comment off but Mrs March is not confident. George bought her a pair of mint-green leather gloves and Mrs March wears them because she likes to think of herself as the kind of woman who would have selected such a bold color for herself. What matters is how things look to other people: she has no view, no judgement of her own and this is obvious to other people. Soon the connection between Johanna and Mrs March becomes more widely known and the cruelty - some might call it teasing, others would refer to pranks - began along with Mrs March's descent into psychosis.
We're never quite sure of when the story is set. There's no technology to speak of. Much of the physical location is the claustrophobic flat in New York's Upper East Side, complete with Martha, the housekeeper, Jonathan, the March's eight-year-old son and regular parties designed to further George's literary career.
The madness, as it evolves, comes from within, growing from a childhood with emotionally distanced and uncaring parents, through an unwelcome sexual experience to a marriage that might be comfortable but provides little in the way of emotional support and care. Virginia Feito's writing is perfectly pitched to convey the inevitability of the spiralling decline into psychosis: at no point did I feel that it could have gone any other way. It doesn't feel wrong that it's a long time before we know her first name: she is Mrs rather than a person in her own right and when that is undermined what happens is inevitable.
Did I enjoy the book? No, I can't say that I did: it's not a story to deliver enjoyment. I did appreciate it though - and if you want a novel that leaves you feeling deeply unsettled then this could be the book for you. It's Feito's debut novel and I'll be interested to see where she goes from here. I'd like to thank the publishers for allowing Bookbag to have a review copy.
You might also appreciate You Were Made for This by Michelle Sacks.
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