Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

A sociopath marries three women

Handsome speedy eater Ken Kimble’s story is told through the eyes of his three sad wives, whom he betrays one right after the other. The entire time I was reading, a voice in my head kept saying, this story is stupid, but I kept turning the pages, enthralled. There was a fascination in witnessing his impersonal cruelty, also, Jennifer Haigh also has good story telling skills.

However, I wondered whether this novel was a literary novel or a genre novel. (Because I really don’t want to waste time reading genre novels). Early on in the story, I thought genre, as the opening section was too long winded, but then I recognized the tripartite structure of the book and the thematic and stylistic echoes among the three wives, and I thought ok, this might be literary. But then there were some tired constructions, such as “heart being furiously.”  Also, there was the persistent problem of the main character, Ken Kimble, the villain, being so completely villainous. Ultimately, I think this novel was probably more simplistic than it needed to be. Couldn’t we have celebrated Ken Kimble’s anarchic sense of freedom, his unwillingness to be tied down to drudgery? All his wives are depicted as such victims (although the final wife Dinah manages to turn her ruined life around). I was starting to root for him, if only because he was such a force of nature.

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