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The Headmaster's Wife
"Part of a grand literary tradition...Deeply felt and utterly absorbing." -...
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What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

Created: 05/07/15

Replies: 23

Posted May. 07, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1358

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What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience? Did the narrative switch surprise you?


Posted May. 10, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sandeo

Join Date: 04/17/11

Posts: 19

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

The structure of the novel is often used by an author to tell a story from two different perspectives, when the point of view changed so did the reality. Arthur was so convincing inhis narrative and confession to the police, I confess I bought it all. When Betsy took over I did a double take and had to go back and re read several sections of Arthur's version. Reality is in the eye of the narrator.


Posted May. 10, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jww

Join Date: 05/31/11

Posts: 138

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RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

This was a fascinating structure. I have to admit that I really didn't like the book until the arrival of a LIVE Elizabeth (Betsy). When it was just Arthur's story, I had no sympathy for him. When the truth was revealed, I cried for him. Can't think of another book written in quite this way. And the fluctuation of my sympathy and empathy was a surprise to me.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
susiej

Join Date: 10/15/14

Posts: 92

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RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I am right there with Sandeo (above). I was knee deep into the plot and character development when part one of the novel ended and suddenly I was hearing from Elizabeth. I also agree with JWW (above) in that I did not care for the book until I came to Part II. I have been exposed to many novels with irregular plot line structure - but I do not recall one that has been introduced or developed in quite this same way. I felt very negatively about this novel because of its structure and when I did come to Elizabeth's story, I felt compelled to go back and reread large parts of Arthur's.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
antypam

Join Date: 08/14/14

Posts: 15

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

While I did not 'like' Arthur, I very much enjoyed seeing the world he lived in through his eyes. I was disturbed at his affair with a student, but I wanted to hear how he could/would be able to rationalize this with his position, his family history and standing, and marriage. The ending of Arthur's section, his very unraveling, was hard to fathom. It did not seem at all reasonable (would a school be that blind? could his mental state become that irrational without becoming a huge problem?) but when Betsy's story starts it is like a snow globe shaken over the same campus scene, and reality isn't what you thought any longer.
One of the things I appreciated most about this novel was the structure. Clever, unusual, and well-suited to this storyline, the way it was written and how characters were developed as the plot evolved, for me made the telling as important as the tale itself.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lorik

Join Date: 08/25/14

Posts: 13

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I think that the narrative switch made the book much more interesting. I began to suspect the turn of events before it happened, but it didn't change my enjoyment level. I thought it was very clever.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
marys

Join Date: 05/24/11

Posts: 35

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I struggled with the book until Elizabeth took over. I completely disliked the (fantasy? mad?) Arthur and found his character very unsympathetic. I was so angry and disgusted with the headmaster using his position of power over a student. Call his faux relationship what you will, but I call it pedophilia and hard to justify even in fiction.
I enjoyed the book much more when Elizabeth took over but I still didn't find Arthur a sympathetic character. It seemed to me that he used his privileged upbringing and position to get what he wanted throughout his life. I wondered if he and Betsy/Elizabeth ever truly loved each other? Seemed like an unhappy couple from the start and their son's tragic death showed them their relationship was a sham.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
rosemaryk

Join Date: 08/29/11

Posts: 36

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I love it when books have a clever structure.

As many others have posted, the first portion of the book presented Arthur as a fairly disgusting person. I was already deciding to donate it when I was finished.

But then Elizabeth took over, and it was a relief. Although I was still confused for a while (did the first section actually occur?), I enjoyed having something to mull over.

I'm keeping the book.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Retired Reader, NE

Join Date: 09/16/11

Posts: 165

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RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I did not care for the structure of this book. I found it to be confusing. If the chapters had been titled it would have help to clarify the story.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janp

Join Date: 05/11/15

Posts: 31

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I normally do not care for books that shift between voices or periods of time. I also wasn't liking this book til the last pages of the first part. I couldn't get invested in the story and was really disgusted by Arthur. I did not expect anything of what happened in the second half to occur and felt that telling Elizabeth's point of view was what made the book so compelling. It worked.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
aleksandrae

Join Date: 02/25/14

Posts: 40

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

It was an interesting way to handle two voices. Unfortunately for me, due to my curiosity about Elizabeth (and her voice) being absent in the beginning, I deduced what was happening early on and therefore was not able to enjoy the story unfolding as much. Knowing the fantasy/illusion made me discount what was happening until I could hear from the other side.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
joycew

Join Date: 06/13/11

Posts: 75

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RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

The author spent too much time on Arthur's sordid affair; he had a clever idea, but the book needs some tweaking to really work.


Posted May. 11, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lindah

Join Date: 04/17/14

Posts: 90

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RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I loved the surprises revealed with the changes in narrator voices. I completely bought into the novel being from Arthur's perspective and was delighted with the changes. Very clever and made the book much more interesting.


Posted May. 12, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
MarieA

Join Date: 10/12/11

Posts: 149

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RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

Giving readers a different point of view of what occurred in the lives of the characters is a great technique. Conjuring up old memories is tricky because often the same event is viewed differently by those involved. Remembering accurately is dependent on the accuracy and dependability of the one looking back. As the author states: "Time is malleable. Memory fails. Memory changes." Who is the more sympathetic character--Arthur or Elizabeth? The reader must decide.


Posted May. 13, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
audrey1

Join Date: 09/02/13

Posts: 20

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I think it was ingenious to switch perspectives. When I realized that Betsy and Elizabeth were the same person at different times of her life, it gave an entire new spin.


Posted May. 15, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sherria

Join Date: 04/16/13

Posts: 16

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I knew nothing about The Headmaster's Wife prior to reading it, except that it took place at a boarding school in Vermont. That was the ideal situation to be in. I didn't care for the intro, where Arthur is in the park, so I reread that part a few days later and immediately was drawn into the teacher/student affair. When it switched--WOW! That was a gotcha moment for this sometimes jaded reader. It worked for me all the way around.


Posted May. 15, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ElenaSpagnolie

Join Date: 10/10/11

Posts: 19

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I agree with antypam (above). While I didn't agree with Arthur's affair, I was curious to find out how it would be justified within the context of the story, and the suspense kept me reading. The shift in perspective definitely added to the depth of the story, and it was fun to reread the beginning knowing Arthur was an unreliable narrator. i especially liked the tension of the scenes in the police station. Even then, Arthur acts like a headmaster, condescending and arrogant to the cops who found him naked in the park!


Posted May. 15, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Lea Ann

Join Date: 04/20/11

Posts: 99

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RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I'm not adverse to books which switch from time to time, character to character, or in some way switch horses in mid-stream as it were. However, like some of the others who commented, I found the format of this book to be just plain confusing for far too long. Maybe I'm losing my sharpness as I age, but I must admit that I had difficulty figuring out just what was going on. I believe that fellow reader, Susie, expressed my confusion, in a way that most closely mirrored mine. Overall, I didn't enjoy this book as much as some others I've read for Book Browse, but that's to be expected. Indeed, not all books are created equal.


Posted May. 15, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 247

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RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

The sudden shift in the story brought me up against a reality check. After reading through Arthur's nightmare, the reality of mental illness became stark. How easy it was for us to get caught up in this pretense heightens what Arthur and Elizabeth must have been feeling. The break in the story made us realize and accept the break in Arthur's mind.


Posted May. 16, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sandrah

Join Date: 07/18/11

Posts: 64

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RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I thought the structure was terrific. Like many, I found the revelations a reality check as we readers realize that Greene has effectively used an unreliable narrator. It turns the story upside down and lets us understand poor Arthur's inability to cope with failures.


"The reader lives a 1000 lives before he dies. The [person] who never reads lives only one."
George R.R. Martin.
Posted May. 17, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lindan

Join Date: 05/17/15

Posts: 4

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

It was confusing and did not seem to meld seamlessly. I felt it was too contrived. It did explain what felt like a lot of confusion and yet I did not get lost in the story but was always aware of the structure as an important piece to understanding the story.I think the devices used by a writer are best served when the reader is not pulled out of the story to question the form.


Posted May. 18, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
vickic

Join Date: 09/15/14

Posts: 24

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

The structure was certainly interesting but the dramatic switch near the end with the survival of Elizabeth and the subsequent story line was, I thought disconcerting. Overall, the story was satisfying but didn't always flow in a seamless fashion.


Posted May. 19, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
flute4u

Join Date: 08/14/13

Posts: 27

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I also found the structure of this novel interesting and challenging. Arthur quickly becomes a character with no likeable traits. I would have been more understanding of Arthur if the relationship between him and his father had been explored in more depth. Elizabeth's voice is a welcome relief when she enters the story line with her own reality.


Posted May. 19, 2015 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ElenaSpagnolie

Join Date: 10/10/11

Posts: 19

RE: What do you think the structure of the novel brought to your reading experience?

I also wanted to read more about Arthur's dad and their history together, flute4you! Maybe that could be a sequel, The Headmaster's Father. :)


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