I find it incredibly telling that the only mediocre reviews of this riveting novel are people essentially calling its heroine a whiner because she is rich and has a husband and children, yet is still unhappy. So sure, if your understanding of what “should” lead to female fulfillment is fundamentally a patriarchal and narrow one, you may miss the entire point of this book.
Otherwise, brace yourself for a stylish, empowering update to Flaubert’s masterpiece meets a spy thriller. Hello, what’s not to love?! I love the worlds Karin Tanabe is always able to create and this is her best yet. The plot is so well crafted and page turning, I couldn’t put it down. But what I really loved was Katharina’s rich and conflicted inner life. Trapped in a gilded prison like so many women, her ambition a casualty of society’s expectations. And, like Flaubert, the point here is not to craft some elaborate morality tale and condemn or celebrate “good or bad” behavior, rather to depict this very real human condition, the very real plight of the mid-century woman—which still carries enormous resonance today, as if it even needs to be said. Karin Tanabe raises the big real questions of what we expect of women and how we support mothers, while telling a heck of a gorgeous story. Five stars!