Title: The Perfect Wife
Author: Katherine Scholes
Opening lines: “…Kitty shifted impatiently in her seat. The journey seemed to have dragged on forever but now the end was near. Soon she would be reunited with her husband and they would start their marriage over …”
Blurb: Kitty Hamilton arrives in Tanganyika with high hopes for her new life. An exciting adventure halfway across the world could be just what she and Theo need to recover from the scandal that almost tore them apart. She is determined to play the role of the perfect wife, but her dreams soon begin to unravel. Theo is distracted with his important British government post, and while Kitty had imagined doing valuable work of her own, she finds that choosing the right frock to wear to the club is the biggest challenge of her day. In this wild and foreign land, where very different powers prevail, the head can’t always rule the heart. As old wounds resurface and new passions ignite, Kitty and Theo confront emotions that push them beyond the boundaries of all that they know and believe in.
My Thoughts: The idea for THE PERFECT WIFE started with a conversation author Katherine Scholes had with her father. He had lived in Tanzania in east Africa for 30 years and mentioned in passing the ill-fated Tanganyika Groundnut Scheme and how in the late 50’s he had been to the town nicknamed ‘Londoni’ where the British staff lived. From this conversation the book has now come into being. I loved peeking into life as a British Colonial in 1940s Tanzania (not so different to life in Nigeria over on the west coast of Africa in the late 1950s where I was brought up). Kitty found out that houses were provided by the British Government, the grandeur of them depended on your position with the company, the men went out to work while the women socialised. The white community had African servants, nannies for the children and of course the club which was central to all social activity. There was a strict pecking order as well, the higher up in the service a woman’s husband was, then the higher was her social position in the pack of wives. Kitty was a country girl from the Australian bush who had travelled to England to train as an artist before WWII and ended up married to the son of the local Lord of the Manor. She was like a fish out of water as she tried so hard to be the perfect wife without actually understanding the rules. Unlike the other women, Kitty had attempted to prepare herself for life in Africa by learning Swahili and basic bush first aid. She decides to help out at the local missionary – doling out food and rudimentary medical care to the local African prisoners. The story progresses by seeing Kitty’s character grow through her interactions between the other wives, the missionaries and local villagers. It also shows her relationship with her husband deteriorating as he starts to drink heavily and comes up with some hare-brained ideas. That Theo is suffering from ‘shell shock’ after seeing action in WWII is only part of his problem, dealing with scandal the caused them to be living in Africa is another part, but a final part has to deal with the fact that as the cosseted son of landed gentry he is not used to having his motives questioned. Gradually in the background the story builds up to its shocking conclusion. I really liked Kitty as a character, while not liking Theo at all. I think that without the scandal the marriage would not have lasted. As for the scandal it is not something that would really raise an eyebrow nowadays, but at that time and considering the position of Theo’s family I could see that it would be front page news, but not enough to really need Theo and Kitty to leave the country. The scandal would only have lasted until a new one hit the front page. Theo’s demands that she cut her hair, give up being an artist and move to a new country where no-one would know her were impractical and cruel. It took Kitty a long time to realise that she needed to be true to herself and not try and be something she shouldn’t.
THE PERFECT WIFE was an easy and enjoyable read and sucked me into a world that I half remembered from my childhood and glad that I came to Australia away from it all because I really think I would have been a Kitty. Katherine Scholes has written a few books before this and I am certainly going to hunt them out.
Rating: B – Great. I really enjoyed reading it and is a book I will be recommending to all my friends.
For more about the author – Click Here
The Perfect Wife by Katherine Scholes is book # 35 for AWW2013
With thanks to Penguin Books Australia and the author via Netgalley.