I just finished reading The Professors' Wives' Club by Joanne Rendell and must admit that I enjoyed it. It started out like a "typical" chick-lit novel (or so I thought) with its small introductions into the lives of four women who were battling their own demons. However, it quickly turned into a fast-paced mystery/scandal with a literary theme running strong throughout that kept me on the edge of my seat. Very rarely does fiction of this sort hold me captivated.
The novel opens up in a beautiful garden nestled in between faculty housing at Manhattan University (basically, a fictional NYU) where we begin meeting the four strong women in the novel. All four are tied to the University through their partners and live in the faculty housing, allowing them access to the garden. As we meet the women, we learn that each is battling some sort of demon in her life, and all seem to be strikingly different. It is the bond that the garden forms that holds these women together and produces a friendship between them.
The women learn of a project set to demolish their beloved garden- where they come to think and just be themselves. Each independently decides that this is a terrible idea and before you know it, waves and courteous 'hellos' become heartwarming conversations that lead to the unanimous decision that the garden demolition must stop. As the story unfolds and the reader becomes invested in the garden and the women themselves, a literary plot begins to shimmer in the light of the novel. Edgar Allen Poe becomes a central part of the novel, the garden, Manhattan U, and the women. Will they be able to stop the demolition? Will Poe become a great player in Manhattan U's decision? Will the women triumph over their personal battles?
The Professors' Wives' Club offers humor, resistance, resilience, friendships, bonds, and a little bit of scandal and mystery- there really is a bit of everything for every type of reader. While the book is fiction, there are striking resemblances to NYU, historical Poe, and academia as a whole.
This novel put an interesting spin on the "female friendships" that so often show up in chick-lit. I say interesting because the friendships are not what you see normally portrayed. Normally we see women as backstabbing catty bitches (not only in literature), but in The Professors' Wives' Club we see women who are all at very different points in their lives but find a common bond to connect them. They do not back-stab, they do not bitch and whine, and they certainly aren't catty with one another. Instead we see female friendships as they should be- caring, supportive, and judgment free.
Overall, I found this book to be a good read. I would recommend it as a light read in-between classics or mind benders. Personally, I wouldn't offer it up to a book club- as interesting as it was, I think it would be talked-out very quickly. It may be a good read, but it isn't exactly what I would consider "deep". Many women can relate, and there are things worth discussing (cheating, abuse, unaccepted relationships, and unrequited love) but Rendell didn't take them as deep as she could have.
In short: drink some coffee and read the book, but don't expect it to change your life.
write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow