Monday, 21 April 2014

The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

Arthur Winthrop is a middle-aged headmaster at an elite prep school in Vermont. When he is arrested for an act that is incredibly out of character, the strait-laced, married headmaster confesses to a much more serious crime. 
Arthur reveals that he has had a passionate affair with a scholarship student called Betsy Pappas. But Betsy is a fickle and precocious teenager. When she switches her attentions to a classmate, Arthur's passion for Betsy turns, by degrees, into something far darker. Now Arthur must tell the truth about what happened to Betsy. But can Arthur's version of events be trusted - or is the reality much more complex and unnerving? 
The Headmaster's Wife is a dark, sinuous and compelling novel about marriage and obsessive love.

The Headmaster's Wife is published in the UK by Corvus (Atlantic Books) on 1 May 2014, and is Thomas Christopher Greene's fourth novel.

The reader meets Arthur Winthrop as he arrives at Central Park West very early on a winter's morning. Arthur is the esteemed Headmaster of Lancaster College, Vermont. Arthur's father, and his father before him were also Headmasters at Lancaster.  Arthur strips naked and walks through the snowy park, he is arrested and taken away to be interviewed by the police. During this interview Arthur confesses to a deed far more serious than walking naked in public.

Arthur's story is sad but also a little menacing. He speaks of a student called Betsy Pappas; bright and beautiful and out of bounds to a married teacher who holds a position of power and trust. Yet Arthur is totally obsessed by Betsy, risking his reputation and his marriage to catch a glimpse of her, to steal a night away with her, to try to make her love him. Betsy has become a drug, he is addicted and will let nothing and nobody stand in his way. He is determined that she will be his and his only.

Thomas Christopher Greene tells the story of The Headmaster's Wife in three parts; Acrimony, Expectations and After. Arthur's narrative makes up the first half of the story, with the second part and the ending relayed by different character's points of view. Arthur does not appear to be a terribly reliable narrator, nor does he evoke a great deal of empathy from the reader. However, just a few pages into the alternative narratives will tell the reader so much more about Arthur, and opinion and viewpoint changes dramatically.

This is a very complex story, it is also a little confusing in parts and I found it extremely difficult at times to feel anything at all for any of the characters, with the exception of Russell.

There is no doubt however that Greene is a gifted author. His words are haunting and depict the unravelling of Arthur's mind so well.  The Headmaster's Wife is a story of how grief can make life unpredictable.

Thomas Christopher Greene was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts. Tom has worked in a staple factory; as an oyster shucker; as a speechwriter and spokesperson for a presidential campaign; as the director of public affairs for two colleges; and as a professor of writing and literature.  In 2006, Tom founded the Vermont College of Fine Arts, a top New England arts college, making him the youngest college president in America at that time.

More information about the author and his work can be found at

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