Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

The blizzard of 2010 was like going back in time to the Wisconsin winter of 1907. It snowed for days. We lost power, heat, water, lights. In A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick, this was the life they faced in the grim Wisconsin winter of 1907.

Wisconsin, early 1900's

Northeastern United States, 2010

Is the setting of Wisconsin's bitter winter of unrelenting snow meant to represent "quiet desperation" or the white purity of redemption?

The premise is that a stern, well-to-do businessman (after a wild misspent youth, we discover) has advertised for a wife, and she is on her way to meet him.

Typical dress, early 1900's

Catherine isn't what she seems, either. A St. Louis dissipated demi-mondaine steps off the train a demure, disciplined fiancee.

St. Louis vintage mansion

Goolrick sees his characters as psycholoigal studies: distorted by difficult childhoods or having discarded their moral compasses. Jung had a very different idea in that we aren't so much formed by our childhoods as by our universal archetypes (Memories, Dreams, Reflections) and thier dualty in the mirror. Catherine is the prostitute / reliable wife, Ralph the victim / chief, Anthony the child / profligate.

We can add our will by the choices we make. I love how Catherine was able to change herself into someone creative, artistic: she sewed, played the piano, introduced a red singing bird in a cage. The complete transformation from the frozen tundra was the imagining of an Italian "giardino segreto," "a secret garden, the lemon house, fragrant in the evening and in the day a barrage of color and foliage. She read about the hellebores, which burst with blossom through the late winter snows, the foxgloves and delphinium and the old Bourbon roses. She read about heliotrope and amaranthus and lilies. She read about the hostas that thrived in shade, and the Japanese painted fern, its delicate leaves fringed with indigo brush strokes. She said the names over and over, cataloguing them: calendula, coleus, and coreopsis. She was enchanted."


  1. Wow Margaret your description was so good that I feel like I ways already reading this book. I will have to put it on my list. I haven't felt like reading lately, but I'll get back to it! Love Di ♥

  2. I've made note of the book and will ask my daughter(librarian) to reserve it for me or order it from another, if they don't have it.

  3. It looks very interesting book. Have a great week ahead dear Margaret!

  4. Wow! What a wonderful blog! I am an avid reader and always looking for new books to read. So, glad I found YOU! I saw you at Wanda's. I am following you now.

  5. you introduce me to writers and books I would probably otherwise never hear of. It is quite amazing how different literature is either side of the big pond.

  6. Hi Margaret,
    Great blog! I almost bought this book in a bookshop recently, but put it back on the shelf. If I had read your comments, I would have. Now - back to the bookshop I go!

  7. My next foray into a book is to read The Book Thief, I bought it for my daughter and she is insisting that I now read it!