The Gallery of Vanished Husbands by Natasha Solomons
Juliet Montague is an aguna — a Hebrew word for a woman whose husband has deserted her. In her religious Jewish community, Juliet is prohibited from divorcing since only the husband has this right. Initially this doesn’t matter much to her, as she is primarily only interested in providing a living for herself and her children.
As she moves through her dreary day-to-day existence working for her father’s eye glass company, Juliet wants more than anything to be seen, to be noticed. What she will settle for, however, is to be able to buy a new refrigerator. All of that changes one day when, money finally in hand for the new appliance, she is stopped in her tracks by a sidewalk artist and his work, which she finds stunning.
Instead of purchasing the fridge, she convinces the artist, Charlie, to paint her portrait for the money she has saved. Getting to know Charlie thus thrusts her into the world of London’s art scene and all who inhabit it. Having an eye for the recognition of great art, Juliet works with Charlie to open an art studio and gallery.
As she moves more deeply into this new and exciting world, she finds that she wants more than ever to find her errant husband and become truly free. Written in lush, poetic language, The Gallery of Vanished Husbands will lead book clubs to explore the world of art, the independence of women in the 1950s and ’60s, and the nature of love.
Plume/Penguin; ISBN 978-0-14218-054-9; $16.