Review: Gulliver's Wife by Lauren Chater

Australian author Lauren Chater takes Gulliver's Travels and gives it a new and interesting twist in Gulliver's Wife. Mary Gulliver and Bess Gulliver take centre stage in a story about what it really means to be a woman in 18th century England, particularly when they have been abandoned by a fanciful husband and father who seems to care more about his supposed adventures than he does for his wife and daughter. Life is tough, particularly when they don't have money and have been let down time and time again by the person who is supposed to care and look out for them--even if Bess doesn't quite understand that yet. Mary is strong and resourceful, and trained as a midwife. But when Lemuel Gulliver returns both Mary and Bess find their world turned upside down. And from there, things only take a turn for the worse.

This is a story of survival, and what it means to be a woman in a time when women had no power--and what little they did have in the world could be so very easily snatched away. After all, a number of young women in the town are being attacked, leaving Mary to fear for Bess. Meanwhile, Mary's own profession is in jeopardy with a push for forceps births and male midwives gaining momentum. And then there is the fact that Lemuel keeps babbling stories about little people that are unbelievable and Mary is doing her best to keep him quiet, lest he threaten her reputation. 

The author highlights the struggles and powerlessness faced by Mary and Bess well, as well as showing the complexities in their mother-daughter relationship. I was also extremely impressed by the level of research by the author. 

Gulliver's Wife is Lauren Chater's second novel and will no doubt be well received by anyone who loved The Lace Weaver. 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Australia for my ARC of Gulliver's Wife.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge 2020.


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