On Emma Chapmen’s How to be a Good Wife (not a review)

Last week I read Emma Chapman’s debut novel How to be a Good Wife. I say last week – it took me three days of last week, or six bus journeys to be precise.

It was about half-way down the first page that I realised: this was a book that would stay with me; a book I would, on finishing, instantly want to recommend to everyone I could; a book I would love.

I wasn’t wrong.

Something about the themes and the writing style just clicked with me. The themes are very similar to those I’m writing about in my own currently rambling mess of a novel, and the ending is worryingly similar (both protagonists head for the sea at the end, with an implication of suicide). One of the tutors of the MLit at St Andrews used to talk about synchronicity – when people start writing about the same things at the same time for no apparent reason – and I wonder if this has happened with us.

So, naturally, I feel a strange connection to Emma Chapman.

The first thing I did on finishing the novel, after the inevitable moment needed to take it all in and come back to the real world, was find her author bio. Turns out she’s a year older than me and also did an MA in Creative Writing, only hers was at Royal Holloway, which I did look at when deciding where I would go. It doesn’t say when she went but it is possible that if I had gone there instead of St Andrews, we would have studied together. How would this have affected our novels? Maybe it’s a good thing we didn’t do our masters together – one of our novels might never have been started. It would be a crime if it was hers.

Of course, she probably studied at a different time to me, but it’s fun to speculate.

Anyway, I’m a bit obsessed with her, now. I found her and started following her on twitter (never before has that seemed so creepy to me!). I even tweeted her: ‘Just wanted to say, How to be a Good Wife knocked Anna Karenina off the top spot (of my favourite books of all time).’ I wanted to add more but twitter restricted me and I’m glad it did. I might have gone on forever.

So now I await her response. Perhaps she will reply and we’ll become friends, so much so that she offers to read Mother Stands for Comfort, seeing as the books share a lot of common themes. Perhaps she will ignore me forever. Perhaps she will respond but either I’ll be disappointed by it for whatever reason and won’t reply, or she won’t reply to my reply and the conversation will, perhaps inevitably, fizzle out.

Like so many things, time will tell.


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