Book review: Maud Ventura’s debut novel My Husband addresses female hysteria and domestic unrest


My Husband

By Maud Ventura, translated by Emma RamadanThriller/HarperVia/Hardcover/272 pages/$28.99/Amazon SG (
4 stars

Maud Ventura’s 2021 debut novel My Husband begins with a statement that is often a harbinger of trouble in paradise: “We need to find a moment to talk.”

Those dreaded words from her husband send the unnamed narrator, a 40-year-old Frenchwoman who works part-time as an English teacher and English-French translator, into a spiral. Separation from her husband is akin to death for her.

My Husband was first published in France and won in 2021 the Prix du Premier Roman, which is awarded to the best French debut novel each year.

Ventura’s work was translated into English by Emma Ramadan.

The narrator recalls and scrutinises the happenings of the past week leading up to her husband’s foreboding utterance.

Ventura’s prose is simple, yet maps the psychological contours of its troubled narrator with claustrophobic precision.

The narrator has synaesthesia – where one cognitive idea is involuntarily linked to another.

For her, each weekday corresponds to a different colour and mood. Monday ushers in beginnings and “wears a deep royal blue”. Tuesdays are black days of conflict. Wednesdays are orange and highly emotional.

Her synaesthesia renders her physical perception unreliable. It serves also as a metaphor for her erratic emotions: “It’s as though each day of the week places a filter in front of my eyes. Each morning, my entire landscape shifts in hue.”

For most of the novel, Ventura seems to castigate maudlin females, too teary-eyed to perceive reality objectively and the victims of their own over-analysis.

The narrator invites scorn.

She did not breastfeed her two children to maintain the “perkiness of my chest”. She shows no affection for her children because she is “too busy being in love to be a good mother”.

She justifies cheating on her husband by saying she does it out of love for him.

In a twist too significant to spoil, Ventura partially expiates the narrator’s guilt. The ambiguous ending of the novel weighs the narrator’s personal culpability against social forces that shape her behaviour.

Ventura exploits the introspective first-person perspective to its fullest ironic effect. The depth of the narrator’s internality contrasts with her attempts at communication with her husband.

The domestic minutiae of the everyday – such as the bedroom shutters and the temperature of the shower – become weaponised in the couple’s power struggle.

Incensed by her husband comparing her to a clementine at a dinner with friends, the narrator leaves her wedding ring on the entryway table. This is her idea of communicating her hurt to her husband.

He does not pick up on her hint.

The domestic unease festering between the two is comedic at times: “My husband is so certain of my love that even my ring placed on the entryway table does not come across as a threat to him. What world is he living in?”

The contrast between the narrator’s internal verbosity and external diffidence emphasises the difficulty of truthful communication in relationships.

The navel-gazing is wearying at times. Garottes of rhetorical questions suffocate the pages: “Was it the manifestation of a personality trait we had in common? Can people who sleep with their wrist at a right angle identify each other?”

Despite that, the novel works because of its meticulous portrayal of a woman tortured by love.

If you like this, read: Raise The Red Lantern by Su Tong (Perenniel, 2004, $25, Amazon, go to, in which a Chinese concubine’s survival hinges on the love she receives from her husband.

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