BIG THANKS to Mary Ann and Penguin Group for sending me this book to review!
“The Professors’ Wives’ Club” by Joanne Rendell
Published by New American Library (NAL), a division of Penguin Group, Inc.
Rating: 4 stars
“The Professors’ Wives’ Club” tells the story of four strong yet very different women, in alternating chapters and perspectives. These women start off as strangers but their common appreciation for their faculty housing’s garden unites them in a mission to save it from the hands of the ‘evil’ Dean Jack Havemeyer. At the start of the book we learn that the dean’s wife Mary is an outspoken author and professor who transforms into a shrinking violet in the presence of her husband. Sofia, once a successful Hollywood agent, is dealing with the consequences of leaving her career to raise her children fulltime. Hannah has left her modeling career to pursue her artwork but much to her frustration, her husband refuses to take her new passion seriously. Ashleigh is working hard in her family’s law firm while trying to keep her true identity a secret from them.
What I loved most about the book was that Joanne Rendell created characters who, despite some mistakes made along the way, still remained great role models until the very end. These women devote their lives to their families and careers and yet always strive to remain true to themselves and what they believe in. Women’s fiction too often features women who obsess too much over their materialistic woes and triumphs and so this story was quite refreshing. There are a number of complex issues that the women must face throughout the novel, such as spousal abuse and infidelity, which test the women’s strength and will power. As individuals, their stories are equally enjoyable to read about, however I would have loved for the women’s friendships and connections to have been examined further. The amount of intimate interaction among the women is relatively minimal, although this does give readers the opportunity to peer into their respective lives more thoroughly.
This was my first time reading a novel that explored the inner workings of university life and the lives of the professors’ wives. The unique subject matter made this book an interesting read right off the bat. Though this book revolves around a fictitious Manhattan University, I enjoyed seeing the politics of academia play out and much of the action was easy to envision. This is probably largely due to the fact that Joanne Rendell is the recipient of a PhD and a professor’s wife herself, making her story as credible as it is entertaining!
Look out for Joanne Rendell’s next book “Crossing Washington Square”, to be released in summer 2009, which explores the inner world of Manhattan University and academia in greater detail!
For more info, visit Joanne Rendell’s website and her FOOTNOTES blog