His wife came into the room and Charlie turned to watch her.
–Vera Caspary - Bedelia - c.1945, 2005
It is Christmas, 1913 and Charlie Horst sees himself as the luckiest man in the world. He has a beautiful wife who completes his life. And this is to be their first Christmas together. Bedelia, whose whole life revolves around making her husband happy, has decorated their home lavishly for their Christmas party. But a new neighbour, Ben Chaney, begins to show an interest in Bedelia and her past. And then there is Charlie’s case of “severe indigestion”. Is there more to Bedelia than meets the eye? Could she possibly be “the wickedest woman who ever loved”?
This was republished in 2005 by The Feminist Press as part of their “Femmes Fatales” series. And it certainly fits the bill.
The majority of the story is told through the eyes of Charlie Horst. He met Bedelia on holiday and fell in love with a glamorous widow. Their relationship is almost stereotypical. He is the strong0 man, she is the submissive and obedient woman, in need of his support. Although, as wikipedia also says she is “good in bed”
Central to the book is the role of women in society. It was written in the 1940s but is set earlier, when women had even less freedom than in the forties. And the lack of options and choice are clearly evident.
But it is also a mystery. Is Bedelia the lovable kitten? Or the murderess and schemer who has married and killed many men? And how will Charlie get to the truth.
This is not my usual sort of book, but I still found it very enjoyable and will be on the lookout for more books by Caspary. She is also responsible for Laura which is one of those films that I’ve heard of, but I don’t know why and have no idea of where I heard about it.
Other reviews: His futile preoccupations ; if you’ve reviewed this one let me know and I’ll add a link.