The Headmaster's Wife Summary and Reviews

The Headmaster's Wife

by Thomas Christopher Greene

The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene X
The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene
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Book Summary

Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the headmaster of Vermont's elite Lancaster School. It is the place he feels has given him his life, but is also the site of his undoing as events spiral out of his control. Found wandering naked in Central Park, he begins to tell his story to the police, but his memories collide into one another, and the true nature of things, a narrative of love, of marriage, of family, and of a tragedy Arthur does not know how to address emerges.

Luminous and atmospheric, bringing to life the tight-knit enclave of a quintessential New England boarding school, the novel is part mystery, part love story, and an exploration of the ties of place and family. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, The Headmaster's Wife stands as a moving elegy to the power of love as an antidote to grief.

Paperback release Feb 2015. First published in hardcover Feb 2014.

You can see the full discussion here. This discussion will contain spoilers!

Some of the recent comments posted about The Headmaster's Wife:

A Q&A with Thomas Christopher Greene
I think I poured a big piece of my heart into this book. I was less aware of the artifice of writing a novel and just letting it go—raw emotion, sometimes ugly, sometimes beautiful, but always very real, I hope. Especially Elizabeth’s point of view—... - davinamw

Are you satisfied with the ending of the novel? Which character did you sympathize with most?
Yes, I liked how it all ended. I wasn't sure I liked the book as I started reading it (I had no sympathy for, and was impatient with, Arthur), but then after the first twist I really got into it and enjoyed it. - josephinej

Do you think Elizabeth ever truly loved Arthur?
I would doubt it very much. She saw Arthur as a way to bring her dreams of being "The Headmaster's Wife" to fruition. She had her life, and Arthur's, all planned out and was successful in creating that life. Howver, she left out what I would ... - Lea Ann

Do you think it's possible for grief to cause a person to lose their grip on reality the way it did Arthur?
I think it was instilled in Arthur to have high expectations of himself and his family. With his only child failing to meet that expectation, he lost his identity and sense of self. - mariannem

Have you read other books by Thomas Christopher Greene? If so, how do you think they compare to The Headmaster's Wife?
No, but I've already looked for others at my library. And, I'll propose this book as one to read at my book club. Lots to discuss! - pamelathereader

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Media Reviews

"Part of a grand literary tradition ... Greene's plot has the tight, relentless pacing of a fine detective novel ... Deeply felt ... and utterly absorbing." - The Washington Post

"Starred Review. This is a riveting psychological novel about loss and the terrible mistakes and compromises one can make in love and marriage. Essential for fans of literary fiction." - Library Journal

"Although the puzzle element threatens to overwhelm the narrative, this is a moving testament to the vicissitudes of love and loss, regret and hope." - Kirkus

"Nothing is what it appears in this brilliant story of a life gone awry, in Greene's fourth novel set in New England (after 2007's Envious Moon)." - Publishers Weekly

"Greene's genre-bending novel of madness and despair evokes both the predatory lasciviousness of Nabokov's classic, Lolita, and the anxious ambiguity of Gillian Flynn's contemporary thriller, Gone Girl (2012)." - Booklist

"A truly remarkable novel, I read the second half of The Headmaster's Wife with my mouth open, my jaw having dropped at the end of the first half. Thomas Christopher Greene knows how to hook a reader and land him." - Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Empire Falls

"An accomplished and artful storyteller, Greene has surprises in store as he unspools a plot that becomes as poignant as it is unpredictable." - Wally Lamb, New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed

"I devoured this book. It has all the hooks - a mystery, a marriage, an investigation, a loss, a close-up of a society I'm not privy to – and yet, at its heart, there are unexpected love stories embedded within." - Julianna Baggott, New York Times bestselling author of Pure

This information about The Headmaster's Wife was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own reviewwrite your own review

Cathryn Conroy

Wow! An Extraordinary Novel with a Plot Twist That Will Knock You Between the Eyes
This fast-to-read psychological thriller is the perfect book for a cool autumn evening. Light a fire and get comfortable because this novel by Thomas Christopher Greene is so riveting you won't be moving for a while.

This is an astonishing read, and about halfway through the book, the story will knock you between the eyes--and you'll never see it coming. It is an astounding and unexpected plot twist that left me in tears at the end.

Since this book is all about the plot, to tell you more than this is to give away spoilers: It is a story about Arthur and Elizabeth Winthrop. He is the headmaster at an elite Vermont boarding school. She is the headmaster's wife. The book opens as Arthur is walking naked in New York City's Central Park during a snowstorm. The police bring him in for questioning, and he explains everything. This a novel that fully celebrates the joy of love and embraces the tragedy of death and the harrowing effect both can have on the human psyche.

I first read this book in 2014. I am rereading it now because it's a selection for my book club. Knowing what happens made this second read even more powerful because I was looking for the clues.

And do note this: Even though the title makes it sound like ChickLit, it's not. Men will enjoy this as much as women.

There is only one word to describe "The Headmaster's Wife": Extraordinary.


compulsively readable
I enjoyed reading this book primarily because of the writing. Beautifully written but with a great story. The story is told using the voices of the three primary characters. Each sees events that occurred in their lives through a different lens. You come to know and understand how broken/dysfunctional the three are and yet how each chooses to address and deal with the grief experienced in their life.

I loved everything about this book EXCEPT the ending. I wanted and needed greater closure.


The Headmaster' Wife
I received The Headmaster's Wife through First Impressions from Book Browse, and I have shared it with many of my reading friends. From the mysterious first chapter to the end, it kept us engaged. It reminded me of Lolita and A Perfect Mind. It made me grieve with Dick Ives. It made me sympathize with his wife. Once I finished it, because I read it quickly in less than fifteen hours, I reread it. Its remarkable twists and turns even held my interest a second time. It is beautifully written, but sad. The unraveling of lives is never a pleasant experience to watch or read, but this is a compelling story. I highly recommend it, and I have definitely become a fan of author Thomas Christopher Greene..

Alice S

Psychological novel
An accomplished storyteller, Greene knows how to write an engrossing psychological novel.It has mystery and surprises and nothing in this book is what it seems. Just when you think you know what will happen next, you realize you don't have a clue.

Judy G

The book has it all
Love, romance, rejection, betrayal, revenge, beauty, bitterness, hopelessness, intrigue . . . and the list goes on. I don't read romance novels; this novel had just enough delightful romance mixed with suspense to keep me hooked and reading as quickly as possible to the conclusion. You will enjoy this read! Well done.

Audrey C. (Canfield, OH)

The Headmaster's Wife
T. C. Greene's The Headmaster's Wife fulfills every author's dream to write a really good book. Not once in this book was there any predictable section that would make a reader shelve the read and forget about it.

Certainly, Greene's novel grips the reader as a vise page after page with with a multitude of experiences. As a reader I could not imagine where the next pages would maneuver me so I read on. Each character, Arthur and Betsy, displays abilities and inabilities for survival. What, indeed, really drives us to act and react as we do?

Toward the end of the book, Arthur and Betsy look out into the winter night. Far below "is the river, timeless and uncaring. It moves to the sea as if they were not there at all." So, too, for us in our day to day or ending phases of life's triumphs, foibles, or confusions, life moves in a timeless, uncaring manner except for those with whom we literally or figuratively hold hands! As we age we ponder to what end will our journey take us? And, Greene answers: Real courage lies in going on living when you know death is an eventuality! The book serves to give us an opportunity to see how someone else overcomes a tragedy.

...27 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Thomas Christopher Greene Author Biography

Thomas Christopher Greene is the author of four novels: Mirror Lake, I'll Never be Long Gone, Envious Moon and The Headmaster's Wife. His fiction has been translated into eleven languages and has won many awards and honors. In 2007, Tom founded the Vermont College of Fine Arts, a top fine arts college, making him the youngest college president in America at that time. He lives in Montpelier, VT, with his family.

Link to Thomas Christopher Greene's Website

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