“Imagine if Patricia Highsmith had written The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and instead of heroic daydreams she gave her protagonist murderous ones—that would be Bookworm. Robin Yeatman’s story is subversive, surprising, and satisfying in a way that only the best comic noir can be.”—Claire Oshetsky, author of Chouette
A wickedly funny debut novel—a black comedy with a generous heart that explores the power of imagination and reading—about a woman who tries to use fiction to find her way to happiness.
Victoria is unhappily married to an ambitious and controlling lawyer consumed with his career. Burdened with overbearing in-laws, a boring dead-end job she can’t seem to leave, and a best friend who doesn’t seem to understand her, Victoria finds solace from the daily grind in her beloved books and the stories she makes up in her head. One day, in a favorite café, she notices an attractive man reading the same talked-about bestselling novel that she is reading. A woman yearning for her own happy ending, Victoria is sure it’s fate. The handsome book lover must be her soul mate.
There’s only one small problem. Victoria is already married. Frustrated, and desperate to change her life, Victoria retreats to the dark places in her mind and thinks back to all the stories she’s ever read in hopes of finding a solution. She begins to fantasize about nocturnal trysts with café man, and imaginative ways (poisoned pickles were an inspired choice in Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres) of getting rid of the dread husband.
It’s all just harmless fantasy born of Victoria’s fevered imagination and her books—until, one night, fiction and reality blur and suddenly it seems Victoria is about to get everything she’s wished for . . . .
Yeatman debuts with an entertaining if muddled story of a woman who wishes for another life. Victoria has a dead-end job at a spa in Montreal and a controlling husband she loathes. She finds solace in reading, and as she gets increasingly lost in her books, she imagines a series of Quixotic scenarios in which she kills her husband, each method inspired by something from a novel. Victoria's husband, though, isn't her only problem: she bemoans a good friend and finds fault with a new love interest's performance in bed. At first, Yeatman succeeds at bringing the reader over to Victoria's side, rooting for Victoria to make a change. But as things progress, it's unclear whether the narrative is meant as satire, or whether Victoria is supposed to be an antihero or a sympathetic character. There's fun to be had, but unlike the books that transform Victoria, it's not the stuff of literature.