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The Better Half: 13 Tales of Powerful Wives

Erica Nelson works in marketing at Hachette Book Group.

As the saying goes, “Behind every man, there’s a great woman.” With this list, we’re paying homage to the stories of the wives of real-life famous men, wives of fictional men, and wives who are famous in their own right. These books tell the stories of women who are strong, resilient, and determined to carve out their own space in the world.


The Silent Wife
by A. S. A. Harrison

Told in alternating voices, THE SILENT WIFE is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, where concessions can’t be made, and promises won’t be kept. Expertly plotted and reminiscent of GONE GIRL, this novel ensnares the reader from page one and does not let go.

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The Silent Wife
A. S. A. Harrison

Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept. Expertly plotted and reminiscent of Gone Girl, The Silent Wife ensnares the reader from page one and does not let go.

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MENTIONED IN:

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The Wife
by Meg Wolitzer

Joseph is one of America’s preeminent novelists, and his wife, Joan, has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career. But Joan has finally decided to stop. This gripping novel flashes back to follow the course of the marriage that brought the couple to this breaking point.

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The Wife
Meg Wolitzer

Imbued with the characteristic wit and intelligence that Meg Wolitzer brought to The Interestings, The Wife raises big questions about voice, marriage, power, and gender in literature. Slim but smart, this provocative story can be read in a day, but it will remain on your mind for much longer. A film adaptation starring Glenn Close and Frances McDormand is in the works and we would watch those two titans of acting in just about anything.

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The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger

Henry is a dashing, adventurous librarian who inadvertently travels through time and falls in love with Clare, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Their passionate affair captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and the bonds of time.

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The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger

Is time a parabola? If you asked the couple at the heart of this remarkable story, Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who travels involuntarily through time and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course, they'd probably both say yes. Henry and Clare's passionate love affair endures across a sea of time and captures the two lovers in an impossibly romantic trap, and it is Audrey Niffenegger's cinematic storytelling that makes the novel's unconventional chronology so vibrantly triumphant.

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The Lost Wife
by Alyson Richman

THE LOST WIFE explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit, and the strength of memory. In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later and thousands of miles away in New York, providence gives them one more chance.

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The Lost Wife
Alyson Richman

THE LOST WIFE explores the power of first love, the resilience of the human spirit, and the strength of memory. In pre-war Prague, the dreams of two young lovers are shattered when they are separated by the Nazi invasion. Then, decades later and thousands of miles away in New York, providence gives them one more chance.

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MENTIONED IN:

The Better Half: 13 Tales of Powerful Wives

By Erica Nelson | July 7, 2016

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The Paris Wife
by Paula McLain

This deeply evocative novel imagines Hadley and Ernest Hemingway as they enter the hard-drinking and free-loving life of Paris. As Ernest pours himself into writing, Hadley strives to hold on to her sense of self as her roles as wife, friend, and muse become more challenging. Eventually they find themselves facing a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

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The Paris Wife
Paula McLain

This deeply intimate novel captures the love affair between two unforgettable figures: Ernest Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. Despite their extraordinary bond, the Hemingways are ill-prepared for the hard-drinking and fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, and they find themselves facing a deception that will lead to the unraveling of everything they’ve fought so hard for.

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The Zookeeper's Wife
by Diane Ackerman

THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE combines extensive research and an exuberant writing style to re-create a fascinating, true-life story. After their zoo was bombed, Polish zookeepers Jan and Antonina Żabiński managed to save more than three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages.

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The Zookeeper's Wife
Diane Ackerman

After the Warsaw zoo is bombed, zookeeper Jan Zabinski and his wife Antonia (played by Jessica Chastain) manage to save more than three hundred people from the Nazis by hiding refugees in empty animal cages. This stunning piece of World War II literature is based on a true story. RELEASE DATE: 2016

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MENTIONED IN:

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The Astronaut Wives Club
by Lily Koppel

In 1959, as America’s Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, television cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Together the women formed the Astronaut Wives Club, providing one another with support and friendship—a bond that would stand the test of time.

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The Astronaut Wives Club
Lily Koppel

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MENTIONED IN:

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The Aviator's Wife
by Melanie Benjamin

This acclaimed historical novel pulls back the curtain on the marriage of Anne and Charles Lindbergh, the venerated aviator and military officer. Despite her becoming the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States and other major achievements, Anne is still viewed merely as the aviator’s wife.

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The Aviator's Wife
Melanie Benjamin

Anne Morrow always stood in the shadows of those around her, but when she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic, the famous aviator sees a kindred sprit, a fellow adventurer. Married in a headline-making wedding, her fairy-tale life brings heartbreak and hardships, and ultimately pushes her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence.

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MENTIONED IN:

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The Shoemaker's Wife
by Adriana Trigiani

A breathtaking multigenerational love story that spans two continents, two World Wars, and the quest of two star-crossed lovers to find each other again. THE SHOEMAKER’S WIFE is a portrait of the times, the places, and the people who defined the American immigrant experience.

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The Shoemaker's Wife
Adriana Trigiani

A breathtaking multigenerational love story that spans two continents, two World Wars, and the quest of two star-crossed lovers to find each other again. THE SHOEMAKER’S WIFE is a portrait of the times, the places, and the people who defined the American immigrant experience.

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MENTIONED IN:

The Better Half: 13 Tales of Powerful Wives

By Erica Nelson | July 7, 2016

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A Reliable Wife
by Robert Goolrick

Complex, devious, and motivated by greed, Catherine Land is answering successful businessman Ralph Truitt’s newspaper advertisement for “a reliable wife.” Little does she know that despite her plans to manipulate him, Ralph has dark secrets and plans of his own for his new wife.

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A Reliable Wife
Robert Goolrick

In the bitter cold of Rural Wisconsin, 1909, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow.

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MENTIONED IN:

The Better Half: 13 Tales of Powerful Wives

By Erica Nelson | July 7, 2016

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By Off the Shelf Staff | September 2, 2014

Close

The Traitor's Wife
by Allison Pataki

Everyone knows Benedict Arnold as history’s most notorious turncoat. But few know of another integral character in this traitorous and history-making plot: a charming young woman who not only contributed to the betrayal but orchestrated it—Arnold’s wife, Peggy Shippen Arnold.

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The Traitor's Wife
Allison Pataki

This historical novel follows the love triangle that nearly destroyed America’s fight for freedom. It focuses on Peggy Shippen Arnold, the cunning wife of Benedict Arnold and the mastermind behind America’s most infamous—and misunderstood—act of treason.

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The Nazi Officer's Wife
by Edith H. Beer and Susan Dworkin

This heartrending memoir chronicles Edith Hahn’s life as she was released from a Gestapo-run ghetto in Vienna in 1942 and reemerged in Munich as Grete Denner. There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi Party member who fell in love with her. Despite Edith’s eventual confession that she was Jewish and the risk it posed to both their lives, he married her and kept her identity a secret.

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The Nazi Officer's Wife
Edith H. Beer and Susan Dworkin

This heartrending memoir chronicles Edith Hahn’s life as she was released from a Gestapo-run ghetto in Vienna in 1942 and reemerged in Munich as Grete Denner. There she met Werner Vetter, a Nazi Party member who fell in love with her. Despite Edith’s eventual confession that she was Jewish and the risk it posed to both their lives, he married her and kept her identity a secret.

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MENTIONED IN:

The Better Half: 13 Tales of Powerful Wives

By Erica Nelson | July 7, 2016

Close

The Wives of Los Alamos
by TaraShea Nesbit

While the atomic bomb was being invented in secret labs by their husbands, this group of wives joined together in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Babies were born, friendships were forged, and children grew up, all while their families struggled with the burden of their contribution to the most destructive force in the history of mankind.

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The Wives of Los Alamos
TaraShea Nesbit

While the atomic bomb was being invented in secret labs by their husbands, this group of wives joined together in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Babies were born, friendships were forged, and children grew up, all while their families struggled with the burden of their contribution to the most destructive force in the history of mankind.

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MENTIONED IN:

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The Better Half: 13 Tales of Powerful Wives

By Erica Nelson | July 7, 2016

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