Wednesday, 12 February 2020


Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

In her new novel, Recipe For A Perfect Wife, Karma Brown explores the idea that things haven’t changed that much for women in the last fifty years when it comes to marriage, and the perfect, stay at home wife of the 50’s actually has more in common than we’d like to admit with her counterpart in 2020.

Told from dual narratives of two new wives—Nellie, in the 1950’s and Alice in 2018, the story is a little slow to get going. Brown begins with Alice making a move from the big city to the suburbs with Nate, her husband. Alice as a character is difficult to get a handle on at first and tends to come off as unsympathetic and secretive. But once Nellie is introduced, the story really takes off as she her attempts to fashion herself as the perfect wife for husband, Richard. Perfectly groomed, with seamed stockings, lipstick and cocktails waiting at the door for her work-weary husband she conjures up numerous bizarre (to our modern, health-conscious tastes) dishes in her kitchen, following the recipes passed down by her mother. But we soon learn that all is not perfect in her little slice of suburban heaven.

Alice’s motives, on the other hand, are not quite as clear and she comes across as somewhat scattered and indecisive until she stumbles upon a box of old recipes and 1950’s Ladies Housekeeping magazines in her basement. Though this is a slightly clich├ęd plot device, Karma Brown really makes it work and brings Alice to life as she experiments with Nellie’s old recipes and struggles to write her book while dealing with the pressures of Nate’s expectations. I found the recipes fascinating, though some are pretty gruesome—Hollywood dip for one—and I’m determined to try some of them if I can get my hands on the ingredients.

With the help of her neighbour, the daughter of Nellie’s best friend, Alice dresses in retro clothes and starts to channel the ‘50’s persona as she pieces together Nellie’s sad story. Her relationship with Nate begins to suffer, and soon conflict creeps into their seemingly perfect relationship. Nate’s form of oppression is less obvious than Richard’s, but it still is evident in his attempts to steer the direction of Alice’s life. 

This is also a book about secrets—in Alice’s case, they jeopardize her relationship, in Nellie’s case they save her life. It’s also about how women as wives and partners are inevitably expected to make sacrifices for their husbands and fit their lives around their husband’s needs. Finally, though I guessed the twist at the end of the story, I did enjoy the road to get there. A very entertaining book.
Thanks to Legend Press for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
Karma Brown

Check out these other great blog pages for more reviews of Recipe For A Perfect Wife


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