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Sailor's Wife

The Sailor's Wife - Helen Benedict The Sailor's Wife starts out wonderfully. I was immediately drawn into the story of Joyce, a lower-middle-class American girl living in the 1970s who spontaneously marries a Greek sailor boy and struggles in her new life, living with his peasant-farmer parents while he is away at sea. Unfortunately, the book goes downhill starting when she meets the British boy Alex and begins an affair--although we have to suffer through Alex's constant internal mooning over Joyce, the predominance of sex and absence of communication make both her relationships more "lust stories" than love stories, and as it turns out the plot is structured around her relationship with Alex.

I found plenty to appreciate in this novel (the reason it still gets three stars): although it actually begins two years into Joyce's life on the fictional island of Ifestia, the story of her struggle to adapt and gain acceptance there is still an engaging one. The Ifestian peasants are arguably the most interesting characters in the book, and their life stories cover much of modern Greek history, which is quite educational. And Joyce's character development throughout the story seemed well-done; her final choice was unexpectedly original.

But then there are some problems. Aside from the shallow lust stories, the 3rd person narrator seemed to dip into too many characters' heads, making the novel seem rather amateurish; there's an unfortunate tendency toward melodrama; and Joyce's "surprise" discovery toward the end is predictable as of the very beginning of the book.

Ultimately, I was left with the feeling that the author couldn't quite decide whether she wanted to write contemporary literature or a dime-a-dozen sex-on-the-beach novel, so the result is neither one nor the other. Still, as a quick read and an introduction to modern Greek history and culture, it's not bad.