Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Book #13 (5K Book #1): 'The First Wive's Club' by Olivia Goldsmith

Finally, a good book!

Most you have probably seen (or at least heard of) the movie 'The First Wive's Club'. Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler playing women who are suddenly abandoned and divorced by their husbands and who then decide to take revenge. The movie is funny and quirky, not brilliant but a lot of fun, the women's revenge light hearted and comedic. All ends well and everyone's happy.

The book is a little different. While the plot is basically the same, the mood is quite different, and while still funny, the world of the First Wives is a lot colder and more cynical than in the film.

The story follows three women; Annie, Brenda and Elise, all with very different personalities and backgrounds. Each is in turn abandoned or betrayed by their husbands, all three humiliated by the men they helped bring up from obscurity into the rich and exclusive world of New York society. The wives are all angry and despondent but don't know what to do about it, until one of their mutual friends commits suicide after a life of being horribly treated by her husband. Seeing the common threads in their stories, the three women decide to get together and form a club, whose ultimate goal is to destroy their friend's former husband, and pay back their own exes in ways that will hurt them the most. They manage to do this with a lot of cooperation between them, a lot of money from helpful family members, and some very vicious financial and legal moves that the husbands never suspected the women to be capable of. It's a vicious fight on both sides, but Goldsmith never lets us doubt for a moment that the men had it coming all along; the wives only want what's fair.

The book's mood is almost that of a dark comedy, with Goldsmith digging into the heart of New York high society and all its dirty vices-- there's drugs, alcohol, dark secrets and shady dealings going on in a struggle for power and social status. She takes the reader into a very cynical, cold-hearted world where people only seem to get ahead by backstabbing each other, and most of the supporting characters are unlikeable and truly vicious. The three main characters aren't painted as perfect angels, either, and though Annie's goodness is sometimes a little irritating it's a nice contrast to the other two women's stronger personalities. Goldsmith gives the book great balance between cynicism and amusement; while she paints the world of the wealthy as fun and insane, she lets us know that there's massive flaws and that most people in it are very unhappy.

This was a very entertaining read. It's dark, funny and sometimes a little disturbing. Most importantly though, it's a great book about three women tired of being used who decide to stand up and fight for themselves, helping each other and ultimately winning the battle.

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