Review: The Perfect Wife by Katherine Scholes

Title: The Perfect Wife

Author: Katherine Scholes

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Australia September 2013

Read an Extract

Status: Read from September 24 to 26, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“It goes without saying that she looks and smells delightful. But this is not enough. The Perfect Wife is always available to offer comfort and reassurance. She never criticises, and avoids offering advice. Her home is a sanctuary for her husband, who has been hard at work all day…”

Leaving scandal behind her in England, Australian born Kitty Hamilton is hoping for a fresh start for herself and her aristocratic husband in Tanganyika (Tanzania). With World War II at an end, Theo has accepted an position in Africa with the British Government Groundnut Scheme and Kitty intends to be nothing less than the perfect executive wife. Having taken instruction in Swahili and basic nursing care before leaving England, Kitty intends to fill her days with useful volunteer work in the colony, and her nights rebuilding her relationship with Theo, recapturing the closeness they shared before the war, and Kitty’s mistake. Kitty’s modest dreams are soon dashed however, Theo is reluctant to spend time with her, busy with the failures plaguing the Scheme and he insists Kitty join the other ‘Groundnut’ wives whose daily routine consists of little more than gossiping at the Londoni Club. As tensions rise, both within the marriage and amongst the employees of the Scheme, Kitty finds herself torn between duty and passion.

Katherine Scholes was born in Tanzania, East Africa, the daughter of a missionary doctor and an artist. Now settled in Melbourne, her novels most often reflect her connection with Africa and The Perfect Wife draws on, in part, her family’s history and experience in the country.

I enjoyed this novel which is set in the late 1940’s and explores the theme of being true to oneself. Kitty is a likeable protagonist, the daughter of a hardworking Tasmanian cattle farmer given the chance to escape to England and study art when she inherits a modest sum from an aunt. There, she fortunately attracts the attention of Prince Yuri, a professor at the Slade, and becomes both his muse and his student before meeting the man who will become her husband, Theo Hamilton, a wealthy war pilot. Though largely content, Kitty struggles with her insecurities stemming from her limited knowledge of the world and upper society, and then with guilt when she inadvertently causes a scandal that leaves Theo feeling betrayed. Desperate to save her marriage, Kitty accedes to his demand that she give up art and vows to be a perfect wife, hoping that Tanganyika will be a chance for she and Theo to reconnect but it soon becomes clear that her marriage will never be what she hoped. Scholes thoughtfully examines the conflict Kitty is faced with when she is expected to deny her own needs and desires for so little in return and forced to consider if it is something she can live with.

I had never heard of the Groundnut Scheme and found it a fascinating folly of the British Government. It seems incredible that they chose to try and farm peanuts (for their oil) in the middle of the African desert, managed largely by soldiers, post-war, without any agricultural experience. While their husbands dealt with the inevitable issues of the scheme doomed to failure, most of the wives of the executives, like Kitty, spent their days idly socialising while servants cooked, cleaned and cared for their children. I thought Scholes captured this unique community well including the strict social hierarchy and the attitudes of both the interlopers and locals to the scheme.

There is much more of interest within this novel from the Catholic Mission where Kitty offers her assistance to the recognition of post traumatic stress disorder in returned soldiers. Scholes also touches on the beliefs and culture of the locals, and the corruption of both the land and its people by the British.

As one of Penguin Australia’s first titles to be a “Guaranteed Great Read”, you can’t go wrong by choosing The Perfect Wife. With a full and interesting plot combined with well developed characters set in an exotic location, this novel is interesting and entertaining.

Available to Purchase From

Penguin Au I BoomerangBooks I Booktopia I Amazon Kindle

via Booko

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