At first glance, Mrs. reads like the high society yummy mummy books.
Much like Fitness Junkie or Prospect Park West, it’s an inside look at the rich ladies of New York. We see inside the seemingly glitzy, realistically somewhat empty lives of women who spend their time alternately lunching, directing nannies, shopping, or toning their bodies with strict exercise rituals.
And of course, there’s a heavy dose of judgment against any of the women who aren’t like them. Working mothers disdain the stay-at-home moms. Those with lighter bank accounts have inside jokes in which they roll their eyes at the absurd antics and sense of entitlement of those with more money.
I’ve compared books like these to an almost anthropological experience. See the rich lady in her habitat among the native Louis Vuitton and Veuve Clicquot. It’s a fascinating look inside a society I’ll never be part of.
But then, the story changes. This isn’t a shallow, critical look at high society. Mrs. goes much deeper, revealing the inner workings, triumphs, and disappointments of these women.
One in particular, Phillipa, serves as something of a mysterious muse to the group of moms. She’s a former model, now married to one of the most wealthy and respected men in town. Tall, beautiful, regal; Phillipa seems to be above it all.
But she’s been getting sloppy lately.
She shows up late, drinks too much, and speaks loudly when she should be quiet. Her foibles serve as fodder for the gossips, of which there are many. But our main character, Gwen, sees a serious problem that stretches back to her own college years.
The interesting thing about this society (or at least the fictional depiction of it) is just how surface-level everything is. It’s all limoges and limousines. The thought of someone saying what they really feel seems unconscionable, even with one’s own spouse.
Mrs. serves as an antidote, showing the sea change that happens when people speak the truth and the women stand up for one another instead of backstabbing.
Beautiful and bittersweet, Mrs. shows women in seemingly one-dimensional lives dealing with multi-dimensional problems.