Bogged down in a world filled with the kind of people Tom hates, he becomes increasingly bitter at his dearth of success and the breadth of his failings and as if money was not in short enough supply, Tom's wife Ann announces that she is pregnant with their first child.
Ann is the light in Tom's life; the one beautiful, bright star in his universe. He cannot believe she ever agreed to marry him, on the spur of the moment the way she did, on that long ago holiday. And how he could ever have lost her is a question he will never be able to answer. If I could build her again using words, I would Ann didn't care It was one of the ways she distracted you from what was inside her head.
Living in a house that they cannot really afford even in its quasi derelict state , in quite the most insalubrious part of east London, Tom and Ann try to make plans for the future but it is becoming increasingly clear that Ann's state of mind is something for Tom to worry about - she is cleaning obsessively and is convinced the house is beset with vermin and other crawly nasties and she complains about strange smells and noises that apparently only she is able to sense and hear.
And then, on the verge of losing their home, Tom makes a decision that he hopes he will not live to regret.
An Omani Novel Exposes Marriage and Its Miseries
From beginning to end it is Tom's voice that we hear telling us the tale of his life and at no point are we interrupted by any other way of recounting the story. We are promised a Novel About My Wife and this is what Perkins delivers - I have to say, however, that it is indeed strange to read a book that is so incredibly powerfully told from a male standpoint, when in fact, the story has been written by a woman; that throws a person somewhat off balance. That's exactly what he tries to do, sketching everything he can recall that was novel about his wife. Born in Australia, she has led the sort of life that toughens a girl on the outside, at least : three abortions as a teenager, then later the London nightlife, waitressing, drugs, scars, a "visa marriage" to a gay friend.
At the starting point of Tom's narration, which looks back from five years or so in the future, she is three months pregnant.
She has just been involved in a tube train derailment, forced to stumble down the tunnel breathing years' worth of dust: "soft, felt-like layers of human hair and skin cells". Things are never quite the same for Ann after that. She has - in more ways than one - gone off the rails.
He Killed His Wife, Then Wrote a Novel About It
But let's get back to Tom, because, despite the title, this book is really all about him. It's a page wander through his mind, with no chapter breaks and - thankfully - no self-conscious asides to the reader: this is recollection, pure and simple. One of the best things about Perkins's use of the form is the way it reveals the impossibility of keeping memories pure.
Tom recalls chatting with Ann over dinner, "a legitimate glass of wine in my hand" - a sly, skilful bit of self-justification that nearly slips under the radar. There are many more of these telling little slips as Tom looks back on those long, hot months of Ann's pregnancy, darkened by his inability to get any writing work, by the bills piling up and the sickening success of other people.
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