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

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | RELAX - WORDS: AM­BER MACPHER­SON

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’”

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