The Rector’s Wife (1992)

by Joanna Trollope

Anna is the wife of the Rev. Peter Bouverie, a rural dean of five small parishes. Peter’s hopes for a promotion and resulting pay raise have been denied. The family will have to continue to penny-pinch. Their youngest child, 10-year-old Flora, is being bullied at school. Anna decides to take a job to make money for Flora to transfer to a parochial school. In 1990s’ Britain, a rector’s wife working outside the home creates a scandal. The menial character of the job — Anna is stocking shelves in a grocery store — makes matters worse.

Peter is humiliated and furious with Anna. Their teenage son and various parishioners also don’t approve. Anna finds some support from the archdeacon who got the job Peter wanted, but her contact with him adds a complication. She meets his brother and falls in love.

How Trollope resolves Anna’s dilemma is contrived, but The Rector’s Wife is otherwise solid. Anna is a sympathetic character who proves herself strong and genuine. Despite her surname’s obvious suggestion of Madame Bovary, Anna is anything but tragic.


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