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Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

A few weeks ago that most curious of beasts dropped through my letterbox...an unsolicited book. A package dropped through the door from Real Readers. The name didn't ring any bells and I racked my brains trying to remember who these people might be to be sending me books through the post. A quick search through my e-mail inbox revealed that I had signed up to this programme over a year ago and not heard anything from them since. What a lovely surprise to received something out of the blue!

"Real Readers gives you the chance to read and review books before they are published, comment on cover designs and feedback on specific topics to publishers"

Arthur Winthrop is a headmaster who comes from a long line of headmasters. Running the prestigious Lancaster School in Vermont is in his blood. He is relentlessly proper, so it seems inconceivable that he should ever be found wandering the paths of Central Park naked in the snow - but that is in fact where we first meet him. How did he get there? Delving into his recent past, it becomes apparent that Arthur's sanity began to crumble around the same time that he embarked upon an ill-advised affair with one Betsy Pappas, a teenage student under his charge. But as the story unravels we begin to wonder what other skeletons Arthur's closet might be concealing and whether we can trust his version of events at all.

The synopsis suggests that this might be yet another of these fast-paced, twisty psychological thrillers about a husband and wife with secrets. And while I do enjoy books in that mould, I was delighted to find that Thomas Christopher Greene has written something quite special and different. The first half had me entirely gripped to a degree that is comparable to any bestselling thriller you care to mention, yet it is written in a lovely steady and precise prose that lends it a very literary feel. Then a bombshell drops halfway through that gives the reader a completely different perspective, and it becomes apparent that this is a novel with great depth that sensitively deals with such weighty issues as loss, marital difficulties, mental health problems and parent-child relationships.

I don't want to give anything else away so will leave it at that - it's a thoughtful and surprising read which is well worth your time. I'm keeping it short and sweet, but it's not often that I sit down to write a review and can't think of anything at all that I didn't like!

And how about that cover, eh? Remind you of anything?

Are any of you members of the Real Readers programme, and how do you like it? If this book was anything to go by, I hope it won't be another 18 months until I hear from them again! Only time will tell...


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I listened to it as an audiobook and was not impressed. I had major issues with one of the narrators, so I know that tainted my entire opinion. I wish this is one I had read in print.

    Hopefully it won't be another 18 months for you! That seems an inordinately long time to see any action from a program. Good luck!

  2. It's interesting how the covers of books can be copied, surely not intentionally?!
    I have not heard of this program,mbut anything in the for'm&m's of a book coming through the mail can't be all bad. ;)