Books & Literature

Book Review: The Wife, by Alafair Burke

Six years after leaving his position as a university economics professor, Jason Powell’s idyllic life with his wife and child is shattered by accusations of sexual harassment against him from former university colleagues.

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of famous men fall from on-high as harassment scandals have come to light. While such cases have attracted their fair share of outrage and news coverage, it has also heralded the creation of the #MeToo movement, with many people finally having the opportunity to have their voices heard.

In a case of art imitating life, former attorney and prosecutor Alafair Burke reimagines these recent scandals and uses them as the core driver in her latest bestselling novel, The Wife. Burke takes these timely, headline making, contemporary stories and packages them into an enthralling domestic saga that tests the true strength of a couple when they face public humiliation and disgrace.

In Burke’s latest release since the Edgar-nominated 2016 novel The Ex, protagonist Angela meets the brilliant Jason Powell, an economics professor from NYU, while catering in the Hamptons. What she first thought to be a short-lived, whirlwind romance evolves and the couple build a life together over the next six years. In time, Jason leaves his academic life behind him and ends up running a successful consulting firm, meaning that both he, Angela and their son can live an idyllic life in Greenwich Village.

But this happy, contented life is not the stuff of riveting novels, and soon the drama is dialled up to eleven when an intern files a complaint claiming that Jason made inappropriate sexual suggestions at the office. A second alleged victim, Kerry Lynch, also speaks up with an even more troubling allegation and soon the peaceful, perfect life Jason and Angela have built comes crashing down.

The “he said, she said” drama builds as Jason insists he is innocent, placing Angela into an impossible situation and bringing back traumas that she has long since tried to forget. While trying to protect her son and battle her own inner demons, Angela is forced to question everything she ever truly knew about her husband, and decide if she will stay standing at his side, even if he drags her down with him.

This page-turner makes the reader relive the real-life headlines we’ve seen over the past few years, thinking past the news segment to the families at the heart of the outrage. Ultimately, Burke makes the reader question, both in real life as in the novel, who do you believe?

Reviewed by Jenna Woods
Twitter: @jennaswoods

Rating out of 10: 7

Released by: Allen and Unwin
Release Date: February 2018
RRP: $29.99

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