Friday, 11 February 2011

Book Review - My Favourite Wife by Tony Parsons

Synopsis - Bill and Becca Holden take their daughter Holly to the booming, gold-rush city of Shanghai - seeking their fortune far away from their north London home.  When tragedy forces Becca to return to London with Holly, the friendship between a lonely family man, working long hours, and a neglected second wife grows into something more.  Something that threatens to destroy all their lives.  When Becca and Holly return, it is time for all of them to learn something about the meaning of love and the bonds of family.
Review - This book has sat on my shelf for a while and in need of something light, I finally pulled it out.  Tony Parsons books are usually light enough for me to plough through fairly quickly and don't require a lot of deep thinking.  I liked this story and at this moment in time it served its purpose as a book to just relax with and enjoy.  A big move for a young aspirational couple to undertake.  Becca's character struck me as the more driven towards money and success.  Used to having her own job and income which she had to give up to look after their asthmatic daughter, Becca wanted to maintain a certain lifestyle.  Shanghai was a city with it's own problems and exploitation which Bill saw through and found it difficult to bury his feelings which went against the commercial nature of his work as a lawyer for a large global firm.  Becca living in their plush rented apartment did not see this side of Shanghai life.  The couple soon noticed the life of the "canaries" ( second wives) to rich businessmen from all over the world who also lived in the apartment complex.  Bill worked long hours and Becca became bored and lonely, after visiting the hospital with Holly she befriended the doctor although they did not embark on an affair.  Bill was left on his own when wife and child returned to England to look after Becca's ailing father.  Upset that Becca had left his daughter with relations and mistakenly thinking she did not care he embarked on an affair with a pretty abandoned 'second wife'.  He later finds out that these 'wives' do not love in the conventional sense but love in a practical sense so perhaps they do not suffer from a broken heart.  Bill's affair shakes him and his family and he thinks hard about their life in Shanghai.  I started off blaming Becca for Bill's loneliness but realised that left on her own nearly every night, how lonely it must have been for her.  It was not easy for Bill either as he was expected to entertain clients as well as travel to various sites during the day.  It is not a good recipe for a marriage.  Tony Parsons explores this well and also highlights the vast difference between rich and poor and reminds the reader of the exploitation that goes on in China.  It is indeed a book which does provoke thought and reminds us what it is like across the other side of the world. 3*

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