REVIEW: Ros Clarke’s AN UNSUITABLE HUSBAND And Reluctant Wife

An Unsuitable HusbandMiss Bates once listened to a CBC radio program called “The Myth of the Secular,” which argued that the demise of religion in the public sphere has not come about as Western philosophical thought assumed. During one of the six episodes, a Muslim theologian presented an alternate view to the West’s traditional notion of faith originating in revelation and followed by practice, the most dramatic example being Paul’s road to Damascus moment. She argued that non-Western notions posit that gesture and practice, the physicality of religious ritual, in other words starting with the body, can lead to and sustain faith, understanding, and thought. Faith follows from practice. (One interesting addendum in support of this argument are testimonies from martial arts’ practitioners for fitness’ sake; they find themselves interested in, even adhering to, the Eastern philosophy in which their exercise routine originates.) Miss Bates, what are you talking about, you’d rightly say … and what does it have to do with Ros Clarke’s An Unsuitable Husband? Miss Bates thinks that in a novel like Clarke’s, indeed in a contemporary marriage-of-convenience, a difficult trope to pull off, (Miss Bates has no sampling here, only speculation) the author argues that going through the motions of being married leads to feelings of love and commitment. Or at least it does when it’s done well … and it’s done well in Clarke’s novel.

(To take this notion once step further, consider a novel like Mayberry’s Satisfaction, a more interesting novel than it’ll be given credit for: a relationship based solely on sexual satisfaction, one whose focus is the sexual satisfaction of the heroine as a matter of fact, leads to love and a desire for commitment.) In An Unsuitable Husband‘s case, marital arts’ practitioners bring about faith in the other and love. Miss Bates, you’ll say, what about An Unsuitable Husband? Should I read it? Yes. It is a romance novel, not without its flaws, but Miss Bates was moved by it. She loved Emile and Theresa and their silly marriage-of-convenience … because, in the end, they were flawed, but loveable. It was a place where love-making and pretense-gestures of marital commitment lead to devotion, fidelity, and love, a good marriage’s triumvirate. Continue reading for more of Miss Bates’ cogitations