Novel of the week: Mrs March by Virginia Feito
Feito’s debut novel is ‘startlingly good’ and ‘viciously funny’
Virginia Feito’s debut novel, set in the mid-20th century, features the “most beguiling protagonist I’ve encountered in a long time”, said Jessie Thompson in the London Evening Standard.
Mrs March lives on the Upper East Side, with her novelist husband George – whose latest book is a runaway bestseller. One morning, the owner of the local patisserie tells Mrs March how much she has been enjoying George’s novel, and asks if this is the “first time he’s based a character on you”. The question stuns Mrs March: the protagonist, she stutters, is “a whore who no one wants to sleep with”.
From this point, Mrs March’s “gilded” life comes crashing down, said Siobhan Murphy in The Times. She is gripped by “devouring paranoia”. She imagines that people are constantly laughing at her behind her back, that her apartment is infested with cockroaches. These “fugues” even extend to believing that her husband has committed a murder.
This is a “startlingly good, viciously funny debut”, and Mrs March is a “gloriously grotesque” creation. Little wonder that a movie, starring Elisabeth Moss, is in the works.
There are many self-conscious nods here to literary “grandees” of the past, said Sarah Ditum in The Guardian: Virginia Woolf, Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson. And yet in its concerns, Mrs March feels “subtly current”.
The paranoia that grips its main character – her sense of being known “not on her own terms, but as someone else has portrayed her” – echoes the worry felt by many in our social media-infested world today.
“Feito has done that most horrible, wonderful and truly novelistic of things: she has seen right through Mrs March and into the shameful, petty, maggotty secrets that everybody carries.”
4th Estate 304pp £14.99; The Week Bookshop £11.99
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