A Wife of Noble Character (★★★☆☆)

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Yvonne Georgina Puig   *   Henry Holt & Co.   *   August 2, 2016   *   320 Pages

Advanced Reader Copy provided through Amazon Vine.

Vivienne Cally is a lot of things. She’s beautiful, and that’s what everyone notices first. She comes from a good family and carries herself like she does. And she knows how to get people to like her (even if it requires compromising herself every now and then). From the outside, Vivienne appears to have a charmed and privileged life.

But, in reality, she’s not doing so hot. Her parents died when she was very young, and she’s been raised by her cold and withholding grandmother ever since. Even though she socializes with Houston’s wealthy elite, the truth of the matter is that Vivienne doesn’t have money like they do. In fact, she’s racked up a whole lot of debt trying to keep up with her friends. And the only solution to her financial problems that she’s been taught is to find a rich man, marry him, and start popping out babies. The book follows Vivienne over a two-year period as she tries to figure out what she wants, who she wants, and, finally, who she is when she doesn’t get either.

If you’ve read The House of Mirth, this story will sound familiar. Many of the relationship dynamics that Vivienne experiences in this book–both with friends and with romantic partners–sound a lot like the relationships Lily Bart has in House of Mirth. Lots of rich friends from old money and men who are after that one thing. The ending is better, at least. But just barely.

It took me a while to get into this book, though I did really like the second half. What threw me off was the book’s tone. The author tells most of the story in an overly-formal, stuffy way, kind of like a Jane Austen novel. But then Vivienne also drops f-bombs and talks about anal sex. There were more than a few moments when I read something and thought, “Wow, that came out of nowhere. It doesn’t make sense that this character would say that.” The inconsistency ruined the flow and believability of the story for me.

Ultimately, A Wife of Noble Character ended up being a more enjoyable read than I thought it was going to be, but it still never knocked my socks off. If you really like House of Mirth, though, (and I didn’t), you may like this one more than I did.

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