Buchan again agreeably celebrates a middle-aged woman’s use of guile and smartness to score subtle points and victories in taking back her life from a demanding husband.
Though Fanny Savage loves Will, the truth is that ever since they married—they even had to cut short their honeymoon because a sudden election was called—she’s had to be the loyal political wife: the wife who never knows when he’ll be home, who is unable to have her own life because she must be supportive, attend local events, and put up with the aides who virtually live in her house. Will is now a cabinet minister in the British Parliament, dreaming of even higher office and relying on Fanny’s unswerving loyalty. Chloe, their only child, is about to graduate from high school, and Fanny realizes that time is passing and that she needs something more in her life than family and politics. She’s also tired of coping with Will’s alcoholic and divorced sister Meg, who lives with them. Meg is there because she raised Will after their parents died young, but she is opinionated, intrusive, and frequently unreliable. Fanny used to help her own Italian-born father run his wine business, but marriage to Will ended that. Now, feeling restless and resentful, she decides to make some changes—but then her father suddenly dies. Distraught and needing time alone, she takes his ashes back to the Italian village of his birth. There, finding peace and a sense of belonging, she’s not only tempted to stay but to have an affair with an old lover, now back in her life. As she ponders what to do, life suddenly gets tough for Will when Meg dies in a drunken fall; he loses an election; and he fears that Fanny won’t come back. But Fanny, realizing that she still loves Will, knows how to use his vulnerabilities to gain some advantages of her own.
Another winner from the author of, most recently, Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman (Feb. 2003).