I loved this book. It is an unmistakably modern novel with the sensibility of now, but it excludes the appurtenances of the twenty-first century: smartphones, mobile internet, social media (though not security devices such as motion detectors and gate cameras). It is not timeless, exactly, but it is outside this particular time. It is set in the US, northeastern commuter territory, and is about women at war, in all the ways women have always been at war. Whether army vets or suburban wives, mothers or daughters, women have always fought: with blood and bloodlines, with love, with fury and vengeance, with the armour of composure and masks, with political and social spin. You should read this book.
Here’s the blurb I sent to the publisher:
The Mere Wife is an astonishing reinterpretation of Beowulf: Beowulf in suburbia–epic, operatic, and razor sharp. It uses Beowulf’s three-part structure and a fascinating take on Old English traditions of animism to create a story not of thick-thewed thegns but of women; women at war, literally and figuratively. It is Maria Dahvana Headley’s women who are the givers of grief, the dealers of doom. They are not objects but most definitely subjects whose primary allegiance is to each other. They rule and they fight. They fight as individuals and in groups (Headley brilliantly co-opts another Old English tradition of collective voice), as wives and warriors, mothers and matriarchs. Their chosen weapons are as likely to be swords as public relations, and they wield both fearlessly. Monstrousness is in the eyes of the beholder and these women are terrifying in defence of their people, their position, and themselves.
Maria’s a good friend, and we’ve been talking for years about some of the issues raised in The Mere Wife. Maria will give a brief reading, then we’ll be talking for about half an hour about race, gender, patriarchy and political smashing, inciting revolution, monsters and monsterhood, and the ways in which we can reimagine the past and tell it as it should have been told all along—and so much, much more.
The Central Library is wonderfully accessible. And the facilities people have promised they won’t make the air-conditioning too fierce.
So come and listen, and put your own questions to the ferociously smart, funny, fabulous (and fabulously dressed!) Maria Dahvana Headley.