13 February 2014

Review: The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher GreeneAlthough Thomas Christopher Greene has written three award-winning novels, he is a new-to-me author. I accepted a pitch for his newest book The Headmaster's Wife (out February 25) after watching a video in which Greene described the inspiration for this novel.

I told the marketing person at St. Martin's that she used emotional blackmail because, seriously, Greene's story of personal loss was incredibly moving. I wish the video were still available, but the link no longer works.

In any case, I took a chance on The Headmaster's Wife and ended up reading it in a single sitting. I was totally taken in by the beauty of Greene's prose and by my curiosity about the main character.

  • The opening: Arthur Winthrop, third-generation headmaster at the prestigious Lancaster prep school in Vermont, is found wandering naked through a snowy Central Park. The Manhattan authorities take him into custody, and Arthur begins to tell his story of love, loss, and questionable decisions.
  • What we ask ourselves as Arthur talks: Is this a tale of the headmaster's downfall? Or is it the story of a marriage, a family, and the terrible things we are sometimes forced to endure? Is Arthur a despicable man or just someone looking for love and understanding? Can Arthur ever justify his behavior? Can there be redemption?
  • What we end up thinking: We eventually learn things that change our perspective, twist our sympathies, alter our understanding, and make us ask new questions. As the novel switches direction, our opinions change, and we start to imagine a different outcome for Arthur.
  • Why am I vague and what did I like? I don't want to tell you much because The Headmaster's Wife is a book that should be read blind; the fewer hints, the bigger the impact. I loved Greene's descriptions of a private school and its internal culture and New England campus. I was fascinated with Arthur's role as headmaster, his unique childhood, and his place at Lancaster. Although the novel touches on issues of privilege and class differences, I thought it was more about a family and marriage, love and loss, and the choices we make when we're young.
  • Snapshot blurb: A beautifully written look into a man's soul and how he copes with an increasingly cold marriage, a life-changing event, and the almost inevitable loss of the small, safe world he's hidden in. A strong contender for my favorite 2014 novel (even this early in the year).
  • Extra: For a thoughtful reading group guide (don't look at it until you've finished the book!), visit St. Martin's Press's website. If I ever find a link to the video I mentioned in my introduction, I'll add the link here.
  • EDIT: Thanks to the generosity of author Thomas Christopher Greene, I now have the link to the moving video I mentioned earlier. Please do take the time to watch it.
St. Martin's Press / Thomas Dunne Books, 2014
ISBN-13: 9781250038944
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

20 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks 2/13/14, 7:23 AM  

I'm sort of burnt out on prep school books. I wonder why it's such a popular theme?

(Diane) bookchickdi 2/13/14, 8:04 AM  

This sounds like such a great book; I can't wait to read it.

Beth Hoffman 2/13/14, 9:01 AM  

This sounds lovely!

Daryl 2/13/14, 10:47 AM  

intriguing ..

btw .. i read The Doll yesterday... well most of it yesterday, and i am happy to report its as good as the first book .. i was so disappointed with the second i seriously considered not reading the 3rd ... but i am glad i did .. Stevens is back on her game with it .. you will like it

WordsPoeticallyWorth 2/13/14, 11:11 AM  

Thanks for the review.

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

Kailana 2/13/14, 12:09 PM  

I have to admit I have never heard of this author before either. I added this book to my list.

bermudaonion 2/13/14, 12:33 PM  

I know how busy you are so the fact that you read this in one sitting says a lot to me. This sounds like a fantastic book. It makes me wonder why I've never heard of it or the author.

Nise' 2/13/14, 3:32 PM  

Some of the best books (on my list) were read blind. When anyone tells me they read it non-stop, I am intrigued enough to pick up the book.

Literate Housewife 2/13/14, 4:51 PM  

This book sounds just perfect for me! Thanks for the vague review. I like to go in to a great read as blind as I can.

Anita LeBeau 2/13/14, 5:51 PM  

This book sounds really great, adding to the ever growing list...ha ha. Thanks, and I appreciate vague reviews.

Jackie Mc Guinness 2/13/14, 7:37 PM  

Added to my never shrinking TBR List!!

Jackie Mc Guinness 2/13/14, 7:37 PM  

Added to my never shrinking TBR List!!

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea 2/13/14, 8:28 PM  

Thought I'd start this one last week, but got distracted by another book:( Glad u liked this one.

Tina 2/14/14, 12:13 PM  

I'm very intrigued. It's hard to talk about a book when anything you say may give away key parts of the plot.

Beverley Baird 2/14/14, 4:24 PM  

Thanks so much for sharing the video - it was so powerful. Will have to read this book.

Elizabeth 2/16/14, 7:24 PM  

Wow, this does sound like a must-read. Thanks for the heads up on a title I would most likely have missed.

thecuecard 2/19/14, 5:39 PM  

Really positive review. I'll look for it. I liked the video, very touching.

Amy 3/4/14, 10:50 PM  

It IS a really hard book to review, but definitely a good one!

Elizabeth 3/5/15, 8:50 AM  

This book sounds incredible.

Thanks for your fantastic post.

Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved March Edition. I am in the list as #10.

My book entry is below. A Memory of Violets is going to be a favorite for this year.

Elizabeth
Silver's Reviews
My Book Entry

Carol 4/25/15, 7:00 AM  

Couldn't resist a visit to your blog after reading Carole's Chatter comments on your book review. I hardly ever read newly published books but this one sounds inviting!

Thanks for stopping by. I read all comments and may respond here, via e-mail, or on your blog. I visit everyone who comments, but not necessarily right away.

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