A Wife of Noble Character by Yvonne Georgina Puig

Set in contemporary Houston, Tex., this fresh riff on The House of Mirth addresses the same questions of class and feminism, although in its own way.

wife of noble character

In Yvonne Georgina Puig’s A Wife of Noble Character, Vivienne Cally comes from Houston, Tex., high society, but her value is fading: 30 years old, unmarried and living with a coldly distant aunt, she possesses no wealth to speak of. Preston Duffin is an architecture graduate student from a different but adjacent class of people; the two have known each other all their lives. Despite her traditional upbringing, Vivienne is refreshingly spirited and skeptical, and Preston’s challenges to the life she knows intrigue her. He is attracted in turn not only to her beauty, but also to her similarly questioning attitude. Because the novel’s perspective shifts between the two, readers know what neither Vivienne nor Preston does as they are mutually drawn together, mystified and intimidated.

Plot progression would be accelerated if the characters would only talk to one another, but neither of them have the ability to speak honestly. Meanwhile, Vivienne’s society affairs–bridal and baby showers, lunches, mani-pedis–and her increasing struggle to maintain the façade of effortless wealth provide both heartrending pathos and entertainment, as the scene shifts from Houston to Paris, where Vivienne attempts a professional career as an art consultant, and back. Lavish details evoke the fashion and humidity of an expertly rendered setting, and Puig’s characters can be both silly and profoundly recognizable. With allusions to Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, and sensitive criticisms and clever details, A Wife of Noble Character is both fun and intelligent, much like its heroine.


This review originally ran in the August 9, 2016 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish news.


Rating: 8 pedicures.

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