Review by

My Husband

Crazy in love

A French publishing sensation and winner of the Prix du Premier Roman, My Husband by Maud Ventura is an unnerving tale of manipulation and control. Narrated by a seemingly devoted wife, it gives us seven days in her marital life, a rollercoaster of a week as she veers between doting on her beloved husband, setting traps to test his love, and punishing him when he falls short of her lofty romantic ideals. Occasionally creepy, often crazy, Ventura’s page-turner imagines the potential pitfalls of a scenario where the intensity of one (unbalanced) spouse’s love burns as brightly as it did on their honeymoon night a full fifteen years before.

Chic and delightedly bourgeois, our unnamed wife leads a privileged life, sharing a beautiful home with her husband and two children (although she freely admits to finding her offspring a little burdensome, as she is ‘too busy being in love to be a good mother’).

Working as both an English teacher and translator, hers is a world of words. In fact, in the opening scenes of the novel, we find her hunting for her copy of The Lover by Marguerite Duras. The kids are in bed and she doesn’t want her husband coming home to find her vegetating in front of the TV. Her heart rate is accelerating in anticipation of his arrival. With candles lit, book in hand, and wearing a blouse with buttons that invite unbuttoning, the scene is set for Monday, her favourite day, the starting point for the week like the opening chapter of a book.

Awaking early on Tuesday, she watches her husband sleep. The early morning sun rays illuminate the creases of his armpit with a chiaroscuro effect; like a Caravaggio painting, she muses. Unfortunately, her husband forgot to wish her goodnight before he fell asleep and must therefore be punished.

Laced with dry humour, Ventura’s twisty tale takes us inside the mind of a woman whose internal monologue is frankly exhausting. Possessed by some form of obsessive compulsive disorder, her days are clearly demarcated. Tuesdays are expected to be a quarrelsome day. Etymology reveals it to be connected to Mars, the god of war. Also, of course, the storming of the Bastille took place on a Tuesday.

She hates Wednesdays and is often ill-disposed towards her husband on this day. Hopefully the week will pan out well, Fridays are often lucky.

Daily thoughts and events are meticulously chronicled in a series of colour-coded notebooks. She worries that her beloved has a mistress or is bored with her and employs a series of elaborate tests (one of which involves Duras’ novel). Her neuroses are spinning out of control and her inability to accept the unknowability of her husband invokes the tears of a Racinian heroine.

‘Phaedra and I…suffer the consequences of an overly intense and inappropriate love.’


Treating us to an excellent plot twist, Ventura’s gripping novel makes for the ideal weekend sofa read. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

My Husband by Maud Ventura is translated by Emma Ramadan and published by Penguin, 272 pages.

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