Warner, $6.99, ISBN 0-446-61268-5
Contemporary Fiction, 2006
Wife Living Dangerously is published in the UK and in Australia under the name Debra Kent. Perhaps Warner wants the author to dissociate herself in the USA as much as possible from her The Diary of V trilogy which I hear serves up some really bad and even hilarious melodramatic soap-opera moments.
This book, like Ms Kent’s The Diary of V trilogy, is about infidelity, dear people, and there is no “moral” reason for the very married heroine getting it on with the handsome medieval studies professor she meets while on the job. Wife Living Dangerously isn’t a typical romance novel in that aspect. It isn’t even a romance novel, actually, this is one of those “women’s fiction” books with a very clear line separating it from romance novels.
The story is very simple as it is basically a story about how Julia Flanagan ends up having an affair with Evan Delaney. Her husband Michael once cheated on her with the widow of his good friend. When Julia’s friends pointed out quite forcibly how boring she is, especially for someone who works at the local institute of sexuality studies, she is reminded of a moment before Mike cheated on her, when she asked him what he finds attractive in the woman he would eventually cheat on Julia with, and he said that it was that woman’s joie de vivre. Julia steps back and realizes that she is boring, and her realization takes on a darker tinge when she understands just how stagnant her life with Mike is and how he has started to take her for granted to the point that he actually seems surprised that any other man would find her sexually desirable.
Then comes Evan, who acts as if she is the only woman on his pedestal. While Mike calls her new haircut a big mistake like a college professor would dress down a student, Evan seems to genuinely find her new haircut adorable. Evan is so much like the man Mike once was, before he cheated on her (sure, he said he never cheated on her again, but a woman never forgets when her man once betrayed her trust) and before they got so used to each other that they became strangers as a result.
Wife Living Dangerously isn’t as jazzy or exuberant as its title suggests, the story instead is a little more serious than that. It is a character study as well as a very convincing look into how a woman would end up in an affair with a man who is not her husband. What I like about this book is how Julia comes off as someone whose motives and emotions I can understand and even relate to. There is no absolute right or wrong in this book, another reason why I enjoy reading it. Julia isn’t punished for her sins or applauded for her actions. Ms Katz just lets me know why Julia does what she does and thinks what she thinks and lets me form my own opinions about Julia.
At the end of the day, there are no lessons to be learned here, just a well-written story of a woman who undergoes a phase in her life, what she does during that phase, and how she gets over that phase. Perhaps that is why this book ends up making sense to me. I do understand what Julia is going through, I feel for her, and a part of me is even cheering her on to find someone who appreciates her for who she is when her fool of a husband sometimes is no longer that person. Real life is not as clear cut as a black and white depiction of life and love in a romance novel, that’s a given, and I appreciate Ms Katz for trying to capture that uncertain, ambiguous aspect of life in an actually pretty rosy manner.