by Anita Shreve
Paperback, 304 pages
The pilot's wife
What do you do when you're tired on an empty Saturday night? I toyed with the idea of reading a novel that I had picked up from a charity shop. Fifty-pence for a secondhand paperback -- not bad.
I started reading it in the dining room. Unable to put it down, I took it to bed.
The first book by Anita Shreve that I had read wasn't a page turner. "The Last Time They Met" was advertised all over London, and my expectations were high as a result. This time, I thought I'd give her a second chance. I had no expectations of "The Pilot's Wife."
In times like this, when one is so sensitive to news of air crashes, she focussed the novel on one person: the pilot's wife. The title in itself is not gripping or glamorous. Who cares about the pilot's wife when the pilot gets to jet all over the world?
That was what I thought when I reluctantly opened the book and started reading it. The author quickly pulls you into the story. The wife wakes up to a knock at the door. She learns the terrible news that her husband's plane had crashed. She learns that the first few hours and days are critical to discovering the cause of the crash.
In alternating chapters, the author takes us back to the wife's memories of time with her husband. She tells it in the present tense, so we get a sense of everlastingness. The present, ironically, is told in the past tense. As it happens only once.
As I turned the pages, I gradually learned that this was no ordinary story. All day today I had to resist the temptation to abandon everything else to finish reading the book. Finally, I got to the end. By then, I had acquired all the feelings the wife had experienced. I, too, felt more betrayed than lost.
17 November 2002 Sunday
Verdict: a page turner, you won't be able to put it down, so don't start reading it unless you have the time to finish it.
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