Mrs March by Virginia Feito

4th Estate| May 2022| 305 pages| Review Copy| 3*

I was invited to read Mrs March by the publishers 4th Estate publishers via NetGalley on the publication of the paperback edition in May 2022. It was first published in August 2021.

Publishers’ summary:

George March’s latest novel is a smash hit. None could be prouder than Mrs. March, his dutiful wife, who revels in his accolades and relishes the lifestyle and status his success brings.

A creature of routine and decorum, Mrs. March lives an exquisitely controlled existence on the Upper East Side. Every morning begins the same way, with a visit to her favourite patisserie to buy a loaf of
olive bread, but her latest trip proves to be her last when she suffers an indignity from which she may never recover: an assumption by the shopkeeper that the protagonist in George March’s new book –
a pathetic sex worker, more a figure of derision than desire – is based on Mrs. March.

One casual remark robs Mrs. March not only of her beloved olive bread but of the belief that she knew everything about her husband – and herself – sending her on an increasingly paranoid journey, one
that starts within the pages of a book but may very well uncover both a killer and the long-buried secrets of Mrs. March’s past.

A razor-sharp exploration of the fragility of identity and the smothering weight of expectations, Mrs. March heralds the arrival of a wicked and wonderful new voice.

My thoughts:

I liked the synopsis which is why I read Mrs March. I thought it sounded like a book I would enjoy. But I am in two minds about this book, because although I can see why it has received such a lot of praise and 5 star reviews I really did not enjoy reading it. It is a remarkable character study, taking the reader right inside Mrs March’s head as she descends into paranoia and madness. The whole book is seen solely from her perspective, which makes it the most uncomfortable experience – but that is down to the brilliance of Feito’s writing.

It begins well and I was immediately reminded of Mrs Dalloway and also of the unnamed wife in Rebecca and I wondered if her real name would be revealed. Throughout the book she is called ‘Mrs March’ even when referring to her as a child. It’s as if she is only a person identified by her marital status. Her life seems to have no meaning other than being married to Mr March. There really is very little evidence for Mrs March’s belief that her husband has based the character of a prostitute in his book on her. But her conviction that this is how he sees her is devastating to her. It’s as though her whole existence is threatened.

It’s been a while since I finished reading it as I’ve been wondering what to write about it. There is so much in it to take in and whilst my reading is mostly for enjoyment I don’t think I can dismiss a book simply because I didn’t ‘enjoy’ it. But neither can I ignore that fact. How can you ‘like’ the portrayal of the breakdown of a personality, or a person? It’s beautifully written, but so tragic. I couldn’t like any of the characters, but they got under my skin as I read and I wanted it to end differently – of course, it couldn’t.

My thanks to the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.