The Doctor's Wife

Moore, Brian

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn
  • Date of entry: Jul-20-2000
  • Last revised: Aug-17-2006


Forty-something, a surgeon’s wife, Mrs. Sheila Redden of Ireland arrives in Paris en route to the south of France for a second honeymoon. She has booked the same hotel room as the first honeymoon. Her husband, Kevin, is delayed by his surgical obligations, and promises to join her, but she knows that he is not keen on the trip.

While in Paris she meets Tom, an American at least ten years younger who follows her to the south. They begin a love affair that overwhelms her with its emotional and sexual power. Kevin stays home, at her urging, but he becomes suspicious and uses a fake illness in their teenage son in an attempt to lure her back. Then he flies to the resort to confront her. His brutal manner convinces Sheila to leave him.

Tom wants her to return with him to Vermont. She consults a priest for advice. In desperation Kevin appeals to Sheila’s brother, also a physician. They medicalize her love for Tom as a symptom of early menopause and try to bring her home. Allowing Tom (and the reader) to believe she will go with him, she finally decides for a job in London and solitude in modest rented rooms.


A well-written story about later-life coming-of-age. The loneliness and isolation of the doctor’s wife--referred to throughout the novel as Mrs. Redden--is highlighted and then shattered by the astonishing sexual affair with a younger man. In their efforts to understand her behaviour, the angry husband and more sympathetic brother--both medical men--cope by turning her desertion into a disease that they can treat with patronizing patience and professional firmness. As she rejects their offers of reconciliation, she must also reject Tom whose love begins to resemble theirs: apparent generosity that conceals control.


In addition to twice receiving the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, Moore was a three-time nominee for the Booker Prize. Five of his books were made into films.


Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux

Place Published

New York



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