Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

This is my seventh book in the Book Awards Challenge, and it is the winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award. There is another posted review of this book on the Book Awards blog which enticed me into reading this one.

There are actually three Mrs. Kimbles in the story. They share the same husband at various points in his life. We meet his first wife, Birdie, as a young mother who eventually struggles with alcoholism. His second wife, Joan, is a wealthy socialite who is a breast cancer survivor. His third wife, Dinah, is much younger. The story spans the 1970s and 1980s as Ken Kimble moves up the social ladder, trading spouses along the way.

Strengths of Mrs. Kimble: I loved this book. Each wife's story was as unique as she was. Each woman was portrayed as a complete individual, flaws and all. It was heart-breaking at times how the husband's character preyed on the weaknesses inherit in each woman - her youth or her insecurities. I grew to like each one for a different reason. Birdie, however, was my least favorite because it was hard to read about her descent into alcoholism and its effects on her children. I did appreciate the hints Haigh gave as to her attempts at happiness, and sobriety, with another man. I admired Joan's strength in the story as well as her ability to care about others. Dinah turned out to be my favorite character. I think that is because she grew the most by the end of the story. She became a complete person and was able to unify Kimble's children into an extended family. To some extent, she became the leader of the Kimble clan.

Haigh also did an excellent job of portraying Ken Kimble's character as he romanced and, later, disillusioned each wife. In a strange way, she was able to create a character that I both pitied and hated. He was more than a one note louse.

Weaknesses of Mrs. Kimble: I really enjoyed this one so the only weakness for me is that I could have spent an entire book with each of these women. I wanted to know more about Birdie's past and future, Joan's battle with breast cancer, and Dinah's life after the end of the novel.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this one. It was a fun, well-written read. Let me know if you've read it!


Wendy said...

I really liked this book when I read it a couple of years ago. Great review! I love your blog and have added it to my bloglines :)

DebD said...

I had not heard of this book and it sounds very intriguing. thanks for the review.

alisonwonderland said...

i read this one a number of years ago and really liked it! i've got Haigh's second book Baker Towers on my 2nds Challenge list, so i hope to get to it soon.

Trish said...

Sounds great! I love studies of different characters. Have you read The Red Tent?