Monday, September 8, 2008

Review: Wife in the North

I was lucky enough to get this book from Librarything's early reviewer program, and I'm thrilled I did. This book is journalist Judith O'Reilly's account of her family's move from London to the Northumberland countryside. A devoted city girl, O'Reilly is married to a Northumberland man who dreams of going back, so she decided to grant his wish; she agreed to move north for two years. But for O'Reilly life in the north is hardly a dream. She misses her London life, lacks close friends in her new home, and finds that everything, from her neighbors's dress to local pastimes is a world apart from what she knew in London. Culture-shocked, O'Reilly begins writing a blog about her experiences. Those blog entries comprise this book. I'd never read a book comprised of blog entries, but I found that the format worked surprisingly well. Blog entries give the reader a sense that he or she is jumping into the middle of someone else's life, much more so than just about any other format could. And the reader does get a sense of the ins and outs of O'Reilly's life. We read about her relationship with her husband, her son's troubles at school, and O'Reilly's deepest fears about being a good parent. Lest this sound like too much of a downer, I assure you it is not. O'Reilly is humorous, and she's willing to bare her soul on her blog in a pleasantly self-deprecating fashion. Her story is interesting, and I couldn't wait to get to the end to see what they would decide to do at the end of two years (she won't tell you until the epilogue!) Ultimately, this book combines some of the best features of the memoir and the travel narrative, as O'Reilly clearly approaches Northumberland as an outsider, and it's interesting to see how she interprets her experience through the lens of place. The book offers an intimate picture of a family and a marriage, and shows the ways in which people define home. When I got to the epilogue the final decision was what I had anticipated, and it's interesting that O'Reilly's words illustrate the direction the family is headed, even if she could not see so at the time she was writing the blog. Overall, a very enjoyable read.

Judith O'Reilly, Wife in the North, (Public Affairs, 2008) ISBN: 158648639X


avisannschild said...

Great review, thanks! I must say the write-up about this book didn't really pique my interest, but your review has!

wife in the north said...

what a nice review Laurie. Thank you so much. In the UK the format has not been an issue, but over the pond some readers haven't warmed to it though really it is a variation on a very traditional theme of books comprised of letters. Thank you again (and I really like the blog by the way.)