December 18, 2013

Publisher’s weekly raves about The Headmaster’s Wife

Nothing is what it appears in this brilliant story of a life gone awry, in Greene’s fourth novel set in New England (after 2007’s Envious Moon). Arthur Winthrop, headmaster of the Vermont-based Lancaster School, is found wandering around naked in snow-covered Central Park in New York City, and as he explains to the authorities what brought him to this disturbing situation, the reader is led to believe that the book will be the story of his ill-advised affair with a female student named Betsy Pappas. But it is actually about the trajectory of Arthur’s inauspicious marriage; about Betsy, a young woman trying to improve her lot; and about Arthur’s family history. Greene, founder of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, ably recreates the rarified ambience of a New England private school—the awareness of social class, the faculty politics, the deference paid to the headmaster and his family. And when it becomes clear that Winthrop’s delusions run far deeper than were previously apparent, the author’s true intentions make this tale even more remarkable, for the book is, at its core, a trenchant examination of one family’s terrible loss and how the aftermath of tragedy can make or break a person’s soul.