…is that it’s so easy to be disappointed.
I’d read so many rave reviews about How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman that I’d worked myself up into a little whirlwind of anticipation and excitement. A novel set in my homeland, with all it’s beauty and glory, that I could relate to on a deeper level? How amazing, and not only that but, a protagonist revealed in layers with a hint of mental disorder. Where could this go wrong?
Let me tell you. Almost everywhere. My high expectations slowly disintegrated over the first couple of chapters, and my disillusion continued until the very end. It made the reading harder than it should have been. I was constantly wondering when my revelation would come? When would I recognise the Swedish landscape, and the (quiet) character traits of the people so common in this culture? I never did, and this is a crying shame as I can see how without these expectations I would have enjoyed the book a whole lot more. This is going to sound bonkers to people who are not from here, but the descriptions in this book instantly made me think of Norway. ‘Well that’s pretty close’ you might say, but to a Swede (and a Norwegian) the distinction is clear, and if pressed we may even say it’s rather insulting to confuse the two. Don’t get me wrong. Norway is a stunning country, in many ways more awe-inspiring than Sweden, but the landscape described is not what I EXPECTED.
The descriptions in How To Be a Good Wife were wonderful, the characters believable, the story gripping, but all that was lost in a mist of ‘this isn’t right’. I wish I’d never read the reviews that raved so much about the setting or it’s connection to Sweden, it left me confused and utterly lost. It also made me annoyed. A state that is never conducive to a good reading session.
My husband caught me looking perturbed towards the end of the title, and asked me what was wrong. How could I explain it? I don’t like it because it’s meant to be set in Sweden but I can’t get it to fit with my view of what that is? It made me sound like a petulant child at christmas who’d gotten exactly what she wanted (and I wanted this book!), but perhaps in the wrong colour. How spoilt was I? I know this is a good read, it is extremely well written and I would recommend it to other people. But I would lend it to them and hope that they read it without a mind clouded by expectations.
Although I’m not sure that’s possible, don’t we always expect something?