The Spare Wife
By Alex Witchel
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9781400041497, 304pp.)
Publication Date: February 5, 2008
Categories: Contemporary Women
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Alex Witchel’s first novel, Me Times Three, was praised by Joan Didion as “an irresistible dissection of love in the city.” Now Witchel returns with a sophisticated, witty, sexy story that exposes the world of upper-class New Yorkers and the media that perpetuate their myth.
Ponce Morris is a beautiful, rich widow who’s been dubbed “the spare wife” because she’s the perfect companion to the wealthy, powerful couples she socializes with. She’ll go to sports events with the husbands and throw elegant dinner parties and shop with the wives. She’s cool and nonthreatening because the two things everyone knows for sure are that Ponce doesn’t like sex and doesn’t have a romantic bone in her body. Over the years, she has managed other people’s lives—and her own—perfectly. Ponce has everything under control, exactly the way she likes it.
Until . . . Babette Steele, an ambitious aspiring journalist, finds out that Ponce is having an affair with a socially prominent and very married man and decides to break the scandal in a juicy magazine piece. For Ponce’s circle, day-to-day existence quickly becomes a complicated game of social and professional chicken—whoever outsmarts and outmanipulates the other will win. And there is a lot at stake, not only for Ponce but for her friends, all of whom are in the midst of crises of their own: a philandering novelist who hasn’t been able to write since his breakout Wall Street best seller, an aging billionaire who can’t seem to resist young women (the younger the better), a legendary news show producer on the decline, a big-name political journalist looking to rebound from his wife’s death, and an editor at a glitzy magazine that covers the worlds of politics, fashion, and Hollywood. As Ponce’s life threatens to come apart at the seams, the author takes us into a world she knows intimately: a dynamic Manhattan filled with opinion makers and social fakers.
This is a vibrant, trenchant novel about ambition, love, friendship, and the intoxicating allure of getting ahead . . . and trying to stay there.
Alex Witchel is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine and also writes “Feed Me,” a monthly column for the Times’s Dining section. She is the author of Girls Only: Sleepovers, Squabbles, Tuna Fish and Other Facts of Family Life and the novel Me Times Three. She lives in New York City with her husband, Frank Rich.
“A wonderful escape into a world of beautiful, glamorous women and their troublesome men. The dialogue is witty and true. You will have a great time.”
“…Alex Witchel is already treading on Henry James territory as a chronicler of wealthy Manhattan. …The Spare Wife, serves up a skirmish in the firmament of the Upper East Side with all the careful maneuverings of a Jamesian fortune hunter. …a tight comedy of bad manners.”
–Ellen Wernecke, The Onion
“…Witchel’s Manolo-sharp send-up of Manhattan high society. The fact that many characters bear more than a fleeting resemblance to real New Yorkers (is that Tom Wolfe?) makes it all the more delicious.”
–Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly
“A blast to read. In Witchel’s scintillating second novel…[she] writes with an informed, natural voice.”
–Los Angeles Confidential
“Think of it as the perfect beach read, just in time for resort season.”
“…smart and savvy account about this group of movers, shakers, and climbers.”
–Barbara Fisher, Boston Globe
“…crisply written page-turner…”
–Donna Doherty, New Haven Register
“All these fast-paced antics have the comic energy of farce… the gossipy anecdotes also have the quality of insider dish…”
–Diane Johnson, New York Times
“…the choreography and the emotional unveilings are clever and most welcome.”
– Elinor Lipman, New York Times Book Review
“Witchel writes with insider's insight about a high-powered world where the personal trainer has replaced the bartender as confidante, and where aging women look warily over their shoulders at young beauties.”
–Cristina Rouvalis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“In the Manhattan jungle, it takes an urban anthropologist like Alex Witchel to explain the mysterious customs and rituals of its social tribes. What’s fun about “The Spare Wife”…[is] Witchel’s depiction of the laws of this particular jungle, which is populated by lusty billionaires, once-famous authors, media moguls, wanna-bes and has-beens. And as it develops in Witchel’s book, women are the true Masters of the Universe.”
–Jane H. Furse, New York Daily News
“ . . . this spry and pithy satire bursts with nipping, sardonic humor.”
“Witchel returns to the romances of Manhattan’s upper echelons in this Gawkeriffic potboiler . . . It’s extravagant . . .closely observed and entertaining.”
“Witchel’s eye for detail is delicious . . .”