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The Wives of Bath


The Wives of Bath

Real estate wizard Hugo Fine and his wife Amanda attend birthing
class only to encounter Amanda's nemesis, Alice, and Alice's
husband Jake. The expectant mothers had met previously when they
worked for an American magazine and thoroughly despised each other.
The hatred does not abate during the prenatal course. The couples'
differences are summed up in their birthing plans. Jake, editor of
the environmental magazine Get Trashed, and Alice expect to
deliver at home, complete with whale music and birthing pool.
Amanda is opting for first-class delivery all the way, including an
elective Caesarean at the most exclusive hospital.

Amanda's plans are all for naught when she goes into labor early,
and the high-class hospital refuses to admit her. She ends up at
the public hospital, protesting, "I'm too posh to push." But push
she does.

Meanwhile, Alice also has gone into labor and her all-natural home
birth plans are not going smoothly. The birthing pool is not put
together. Jake struggles at length to assemble it. But while he's
still deciphering the instructions, news comes that the midwives
aren't available. Amazingly, Alice's insurance from her old job
still covers her --- and lands her at the exclusive hospital Amanda
had yearned for. So off the two environmentalists go, in the
hospital limousine. Hugo runs into Jake at the fancy hospital after
Amanda demands to convalesce there. In spite of common ground, the
two new fathers continue to detest each other.

When the babies come home, it's still rough sailing for both
couples, and their lives continue to intertwine in unexpected ways.
Becoming parents intensifies the personalities of all four, and
actually sets frivolous Hugo on a sweetly redemptive path. In fact,
THE WIVES OF BATH is truly Hugo's story. The book honors his
transformation, which was splendid.

Descriptions of Jake and Alice recycling toilet paper tubes as
napkin holders, calling the worm hotline when their
garbage-recycling worms prove to be anorexic, and serving lentil
soup in recycled cottage cheese containers are hilarious, as are
some of Hugo's antics as he learns to be a good father. Although
Amanda is so constantly a horror that the reader wonders why Hugo
stays with her for ten minutes, never mind marrying her and having
a baby with her, it's all in good (sometimes, very black)

This was not the superficial silliness I somehow expected from the
book cover, but rather a thoroughly enjoyable read that managed to
be wickedly funny, surprisingly sad, and had a few startling twists
in the tale. Now that I've discovered this author, I'll definitely
search out her other books.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon ( on January 24, 2011

The Wives of Bath
by Wendy Holden

  • Publication Date: April 26, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Plume
  • ISBN-10: 0452285895
  • ISBN-13: 9780452285897