Title: The Professor’s Wives’ Club
Author: Joanne Rendell
Release Date: September 2, 2008
Genre: Chick Lit
Rating: **** 1/2 (out of 5)
From the back cover:
With its shady maple trees, elegant iron gate, and high fence laced with honeysuckle, Manhattan U’s garden offers faculty wives Mary, Sofia, Ashleigh, and Hannah a much-needed refuge. For Mary, the garden is an escape from abuse. For Sofia, it offers solace as she considers trading in her diaper bag for a briefcase. Then there’s Ashleigh, who wonders whether she should tell her conservative father something that might well give him another heart attack. And last is Hannah, who rues jeopardizing her lukewarm marriage…for one passionate night. As Mary’s husband, the power-hungry dean, makes plans to demolish the beloved garden, these four women will discover a surprising secret about a lost Edgar Allan Poe manuscript…and realize they must find the courage to stand up for their passions, dreams, and desires.
When I opened The Professor’s Wives’ Club, I was a little bit uncertain. After all, a book about four women – that seems to be the standard today. I was afraid that it was going to be “just another random chick lit book.” By the time I reached the third chapter, I could tell I was completely wrong. For one thing, I was completely hooked. Considering the third chapter is only 20 pages in, that’s quite a feat!
One of the things I loved about the book was the fact that all of the stories were equally interesting. In books where the story is told from varying points of view, more often than not, one story is more or less interesting than another. Usually the reader ends up skimming through one story in anticipation of another, more compelling story. Happily, that isn’t the case with The Professors’ Wives’ Club. Mary, Sofia, Ashleigh, and Hannah all have entirely appealing stories to tell, and they are very enjoyable to read about.
[Minor spoiler] A possible point of contention with more traditional readers might be Ashleigh’s sexual orientation. In chick lit or women’s fiction, readers often find that a peripheral character might be gay; rarely do we see it with a main character! Still, I believe Rendell should be commended for writing Ashleigh as a lesbian. She portrays the relationship with grace and beauty, and there is obvious love and admiration between Ashleigh and her partner, Sam. I thought it was a daring choice, and I think it really paid off!
I also loved the point of view – professor’s wives. Rendell is apparently a professor’s wife herself, so it is a subject about which she knows a great deal. They are a group that is often glossed over, so it is nice to stop and think about them for awhile! I was excited to learn that Rendell has another book coming out next year about two female professors – I will definitely be picking that up!