STORY THAT HITS HOME
TRICIA STRINGER’S NEW BOOK IS A NOVEL FOR ANYONE WHO’S EVER FELT LIKE THE GLUE THAT HOLDS A FAMILY TOGETHER
THE MODEL WIFE Tricia Stringer HARPERCOLLINS
Every one of us has flirted with the idea of dropping all responsibilities and running away. New book The Model Wife explores this theme, allowing author Tricia Stringer to entertain her own fantastical, although unlikely, escape plan, through fiction.
“The main character, Natalie, she’s a woman approaching 60, she’s the meat in the sandwich with the family,” Tricia says.
“She’s got ageing parents, she has three adult daughters, she helps her husband with the farm, she’s working, trying to juggle it all.
“It makes you wonder, what would happen if that woman who held everyone together suddenly went ‘I’m going to leave you to your own devices?’
“As writers do, we ask ‘What if?’
“I have a lovely, very supportive family, I’m not really in Natalie’s shoes, but everyone wonders what it would be like to get away.”
The Model Wife follows protagonist Natalie King as she rolls through her busy life putting everyone else first. With three adult daughters living at their farm home in regional South Australia, a reserved husband named Milt and a demanding mother-inlaw, Olive, she is too preoccupied to even wonder if she is happy.
When a book called The Model Wife ,a guide to being an ideal partner to your husband from the 1920s, resurfaces, Natalie is forced to deal with memories and emotions she thought she’d buried deep. At breaking point, Natalie leaves a baffled family behind who now have to confront their problems themselves.
Tricia says it was an article on midlife crises combined with a visit to Western Australia that sparked the inspiration for The Model Wife.
“Inspiration is often setting, so this book is partly set in rural South Australia, but also in rural Western Australia, up on the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome,” she says.
“I was visiting up there, it was an incredible place and I felt like I needed to involve it in the story.
“Then I read an article about women and midlife crises. Originally it said because women were the people not going out to work back in the day, a midlife crisis for them was more about relationships.
“And for men it was more about careers. Now women are in careers, it’s a much broader thing for them, too.
“I had my character and all of these pressures that were happening and all of these things gelled.”
While Tricia says the book is especially relatable for women aged 40-plus, other subgroups will see themselves reflected within different characters of the multigenerational family.
“For women in their 50s and 60s, a lot of books have young characters in them,” Tricia says.
“(The Model Wife) is for any woman over 40, with menopause to look forward to, being that meat in the sandwich, thinking ‘Is this what it’s all about? Is this what I’m spending the rest of my life doing?’
“I still wanted to appeal to a wider range of readers. There’s the younger daughters and it’s natural for them to be in the story because they’re daughters.
“Olive was a bit difficult to deal with, until readers saw another side of her. Milt had a bit of a wake-up call too.
“They grew in the story and revealed more about themselves. I think it’s nice to have a cross section of characters.”
The concept of The Model Wife, however, will feel especially real for older women.
“Women are coming to me saying ‘I’ve got an old book like that’,” Tricia says.
“There is no book (called The Model
Wife) — I just made it up.
“I did some looking through the internet, wondered what sort of advice were women given 100 years ago?
“Often they’re recipe books, but they have little notes on how to look after your husband, don’t hassle your husband after he’s worked hard all day, things like that.”
The Model Wife is a book worth reading simply to guffaw at the realistic excerpts of outdated advice, and to appreciate how far gender equality has progressed — although there is still a way to go.
“I always say first and foremost, I hope people have had entertainment out of my books,” Tricia says.
“I hope it’s something that’s resonated with them. Maybe there’s something new they’ve learned.”
“THAT WOMAN SUDDENLY WENT ‘I’M GOING TO LEAVE YOU TO YOUR OWN DEVICES’”