"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Mistress's Revenge by Tamar Cohen

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Summary: A woman chronicles her affair, post-break-up, in a journal. 

Let's start with the fact that I think affairs are tacky and lacking in integrity. Why should the mistress get revenge? Why not the wife?

Granted, Clive is a slick, manipulative bastard, but Sally is a mental case. After their break-up, Sally is so distraught, not eating, not sleeping, and totally neglecting her kids that she see a therapist who thinks that journaling her feelings will be the best way to get over Clive.

The entire book is written in journal form, but like books written as letters, they are inherently fake to me, as no letter and journals ever provide so much back information in real life.
"Do you remember, that was the very first thing you said to me? We'll laugh about it one day, of course, but still it took me aback. I hadn't even properly sat down, was still fishing around in my bag so I could go and buy a drink."
Clive will never read this, but even if he does, there is no need to ask if he remembers. Her journal is her letter to Clive since he has cut off all contact. No e-mails, no texts, no phone calls.

Stylistically, this book's format drove me crazy. And that's before we even get to the story.

We're never quite sure why exactly Clive has ended their five year affair. Sally is not married but is partnered with Daniel and they have two children together. Clive is married to Susan and they have two older children as well.

And Clive breaks off the affair. This devastates Sally and Sally cannot get over it. She sends e-mails to Clive, sends him texts, "Friends" both Susan and Clive's daughter on Facebook and often eats at the restaurant where Clive's son works as a waiter. Sally crashes a vow renewal party that Clive and Susan hold, and Clive and Sally meet to discuss issues, and end up having sex. Sally is convinced that they are back together. When she realizes that their make-up sex was actually break-up sex, Sally gets worse.

Meanwhile, Sally's kids are struggling in school and hating her. Someone has hacked in Sally's email accounts and is sending messages from her, which is losing her all her freelance writing work. The bills are piling up unopened and the house is a pit.  Sally is losing weight, freaking out in grocery stores and is convinced that someone is trying to kill her. But actually, Sally is right about that, as she is harassed constantly. Her kids are frightened but Sally is so focused on Clive that she can't think of anything else.

I won't give away the very strange ending but there is some closure in the book. However, many things bothered me:
  • What is it that makes Clive so appealing? Sally mentions his bad back and his weight problem and he seems just creepy to me. If yes, he is as creepy as I think he is, how (and why) did Sally fall for that?
  • How did Sally and Clive not get caught in their affair by now? 
  • What was Daniel, Sally's partner, doing all day every day? He only comes home to scold Sally, it seems.
  • How could people NOT see that Sally is a mess? The house is filthy, the kids don't have meals, she's losing weight, she looks sick. How could people NOT realize something is going on here?
  • Why does Susan stay with Clive? This was an odd relationship, but granted we only have Sally's perspective, or how she interprets both Clive and Susan's remarks.
  • Do we always feel bad for the dumpee, even when the relationship is wrong?
  • Why did Clive decide to break up with Sally? Was it an ultimatum from Susan?
I can't say I enjoyed this book, though I did feel sorry for Sally, her partner Daniel, and their kids. We'll be discussing this in my book club, and I'm sure I'll have other questions.

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