Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Favourite Wife by Tony Parsons

Paperback: 405 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Harper 2008
Source: Oxfam Charity Bookshop in the UK
First Sentences: Bill must have fallen asleep for a moment. He was jolted awake by the limo hitting a pothole and suddenly there was Shanghai.

Review Quote: 
`He takes as his specialist subject contemporary emotional issues which almost every other male writer has ignored'  The Guardian
My Opinion: 
The descriptions of modern day Shanghai and other parts of China were fascinating.

A male writer of chick flicks for men is how I have seen Tony Parsons described, I prefer to think of him as a male writer of Contemporary Fiction which can be enjoyed by both male and female readers. I happen to enjoy his take on relationships and have read four other novels of his, although this is the first time I have reviewed one here. It is unusual to read novels about such emotional issues as families and parenthood that are written by men and this author does it well.  This is may not be his best work but it is four years since I last read one and I found this much as I have his previous novels an easy read. Not great literature but that was not what I was looking for and I do not think that is what his writing is about, it is relaxing entertainment. The descriptions of modern day Shanghai and other parts of China were fascinating, he describes well how easy it can be for a Westerner to only see the good side and forget how there are many millions of Chinese still suffering in appalling conditions.

Relationships are hard in the fast moving world of expat society in Asia and this is where Bill Holden, a young London based lawyer decided to take his wife Becca and four year old daughter to try and fast track his career.  They find themselves out of their depth in the city of Shanghai, where there are such contrasts of wealth and poverty. 
The family finds themselves living in an apartment building where newly rich Chinese business men set up their second wives that their wives do not know about. Or if they do it is best left unsaid, they are of course not official wives but the I guess the modern day version of  Concubines. Bill meets one of the  neighbours JinJin Li who is kept in this way and it is inevitable that when his wife and daughter return to London for a period that he finds himself spending time with her! He thinks she deserves better than the millionaire who keeps her but how can he really expect to be able to give her anything better, he already has a wife and young family he claims to love. This part of the story does feel rather weak but then I thought both Bill and Becca were rather pathetic in that they seemed unable to make clear choices. 

A story of obsession and sex, romance and love in society that is undergoing great changes. If you enjoy contemporary romantic fiction then then I think you would find it interesting to read this novel written from a male point of view and the East meets West storyline also creates a different angle.

An interview with Tony Parsons about his writing and in particular My Favourite Wife.
Link to watch on YouTube

Author Profile

Tony Parsons is an award winning journalist, broadcaster and best-selling novelist. Born in Romford, Essex, on November 6th 1953, he was the only child of working class parents. He spent the first five years of his life in a rented flat above a shop in Essex, before his family moved to their own house in Billericay, Essex.

His father was a former Royal Naval Commando who won the Distinguished Service Medal in World War Two. After the war, he worked as a lorry driver, market trader and greengrocer. His mother was a school dinner lady. Parsons attended a grammar school but dropped out when he was 16 years old and worked in a series of low-paid, unskilled menial jobs. 
Parsons married fellow New Musical Express journalist Julie Burchill they have one son together and divorced in 1984. Parsons became a single parent caring for their 4-year-old son. The experience of being a young man caring for a small child was to later influence his best-selling novel, Man and Boy. Parsons' father died of cancer in 1987 and his mother died of cancer in 1999, just weeks before the publication of Man and Boy. The book is dedicated to Parsons' mother.
In 1992, Parsons married his Japanese wife, Yuriko. They have one daughter, Jasmine. He now lives with his wife and daughter in London.

The biographical information and photo used in this post are with thanks to the following websites, where you can also find more information about the author and his writing.

 Goodreads - Author Profile    Amazon - Author Profile   Tony Parsons - Wikipedia 
 My Favourite Wife - YouTube

I have chosen to read this title as the letter M for The A - Z Book Challenge which I have decided to attempt to achieve in alphabetical order. I have a good selection of titles to choose from our bookshelves, it will be interesting to see how far I can get before I get stuck. You can follow my progress here.   


  1. oooh this sounds good. I have one of his on my tbr - one for my baby I think it is called.

    Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

  2. :) Thank you for sharing about this book.
    Am unsure if i will pick this but yes, will recommend to ppl who are fans of such topics :D

  3. I have read a couple of Tony Parson's novel and find them engaging. I applaud your alphabetical challenge!

  4. Hi, Lindy Lou. Is this a candidate for linking in to Books You Loved? Have a great week!

  5. Lainy@ Yes One For My Baby is one of his, no review as I read in 2003, but I do recommend him as a writer.
    Divenita@ His writing is definetly worth recommending.
    Patricia@ I think engaging is an excellent description of his writing. I am enjoying the challenge, especially as I have not got stuck yet.
    Carole@ I do not think it qualifies for linking to Books You Loved, but thanks for the reminder.

  6. Great review, I've read several of his books but not this one; it's still on my TBR pile and will read it at some point. I recommend "On Life, Death and Breakfast", where he talks about his life and issues he dealt with. I guess you could call it sort of a memoir spaced out in short stories.

  7. Delia@Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and your recommendation, it is appreciated.

  8. thanks for sharing.

  9. Hi Linda,

    I have to confess that I must be one of the very few people who have never read any of Tony Parsons work before.

    As you point out, it is quite unusual to read novels about emotional issues, written by men.

    The only other author I have read who may qualify in this genre, is Nicholas Sparks and I thoroughly enjoyed the couple of his books I have read.

    Nice review, thanks for sharing,


  10. Yvonne@ Well that is interesting as the one book I read years ago by Nicholas Sparks I did not enjoy and I have avoided his writing ever since!


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