Tonight was author Emma Chapman’s first official event for her brilliant debut novel, How To Be A Good Wife. I reviewed the novel back in October and it was great to finally meet Emma after corresponding on Twitter and via email, as well as to hear her speak about her work.
Sitting in the children’s section of St John’s Wood library (an interesting juxtaposition given the dark psychological subject matter of the novel), Emma read beautifully to an enraptured audience, choosing a passage in the book that illustrates narrator Marta’s burgeoning suspicions that her husband is not all that he appears to be. Then it was time for Q&A. It is always interesting to hear other people’s questions and interpretations, as they are often completely different from what you have been thinking about the book. A lot was said about the intentional ambiguity in the book, and the question of whether Marta’s memories are real, or if she really is losing her mind.
It was also fascinating to hear Emma talk about the various drafts of the book, and earlier versions of the story in which Hector was an entirely benevolent character, or in which Marta remembered everything perfectly, but it was nothing to do with Hector and so she kept it a secret from him. The progression and evolution of a story in this sense helps the reader to understand the layers and potential truths within the book, and the possibilities that exist around it.
Emma also stated she wrote several different endings before choosing the one in the finished story. I agreed when she said that none of these would have seemed quite right for Marta, and they would not have fitted in with the arc of her story, nor her character. Emma said that for Marta and for her as a writer, the ending was the most positive thing she could do, and an appropriate conclusion.
It was a fantastic evening and I’m so glad I went. I’ve quite a lot of literary events on my calendar in the next couple of months, and this has really whet my appetite for them!
How To Be A Good Wife was published in hardback by Picador on 3rd January 2013