Sunday, December 6, 2009

Philip and His Wife

Philip and His Wife
by Margaret Deland

I am reading Philip and His Wife by Margaret Deland. It is set in the fictional town of Old Chester, Pennsylvania, and many of the Old Chester characters I've met in Deland's stories appear, most notably the beloved Dr. Lavendar. His brother, Joseph Lavendar, also plays a role in this story, adding a new dimension to what we know about Dr. Lavendar.

This book is a full length novel, rather than a collection of Old Chester stories. It explores the question of what to do when a marriage has gone bad. Philip has come to the realization that his marriage is not good, that his wife, Cecilia, is spoiling their daughter and inculcating in her values that Philip believes are harmful. As he thinks over what he should do, he considers the idea of joint custody of the daughter. I was not aware that joint custody was ever an option in the 19th century.

By way of comparing and contrasting bad marriages, there is a subplot involving the Todd family, where the husband, Job, is an alcoholic who sometimes beats his wife, Eliza. Eliza rationalizes staying with Job, rather than leaving him, as when he is sober he makes a good living, and it is easier to put up with the beatings than to put the law on Job and have to live without his financial contribution.

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