Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: The Ambassador's Wife by Jennifer Steil

The Ambassador's Wife

Jennifer Steil
Publisher: Doubleday 400 pages, July 28 2015
Source: ARC
*** Stars
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When bohemian artist Miranda falls in love with Finn, the British ambassador to an Arab country, she finds herself thrust into a life for which she has no preparation. The couple and their toddler daughter live in a stately mansion with a staff to meet their every need, but for Miranda even this luxury comes at a price: the loss of freedom. Trailed everywhere by bodyguards to protect her from the dangers of a country wracked by civil war and forced to give up work she loves, she finds her world shattered when she is taken hostage, an act of terror with wide-reaching consequences.

Diplomatic life is a far cry from Miranda’s first years in Mazrooq, which were spent painting and mentoring a group of young Muslim women, teaching them to draw in ways forbidden in their culture. As the novel weaves together past and present, we come to see how Finn and Miranda’s idealism and secrets they have each sought to hide have placed them and those who trust them in peril. And when Miranda grows close to a child who shares her captivity, it is not clear that even being set free would restore the simple happiness that once was hers and Finn’s. Suspenseful and moving, The Ambassador’s Wife is a story of love, marriage, and friendship tested by impossible choices


The Ambassador's Wife is a story about a young idealistic woman named Miranda living in a country that frowns upon freedom.  Freedom of speech, freedom of thought and the freedom to live without the constraints of religious beliefs.   Her idealism and liberal western ways is a contradiction to the culture in which she is immersed.  Despite that fact, she has fallen in love with the country and while she humors their cultural laws, in her private space she lives as she wants.  As you can assume, this can be displeasing as well as dangerous.  And that, is the crux of this story.  While it's a love story, I also realized Miranda was quite disrespectful to the culture, thus putting herself  in danger. 
There were times Miranda upset me and I would say to myself "doesn't she know where she is?!" "Why is she pushing so hard to live in a way that isn't culturally accepted there?"  Apart from her being head strong, I felt she was  stubborn and insensitive. If you want to live as you please and do what you want, then go to a place where you won't die if you're caught!!  However, it isn't until she falls in love with a political figure when her life gets exponentially dangerous, shedding light on her behaviors. Again, with the stubbornness from Mira.  Continuing to live as she pleased while living in a certain type of "lime light" was outright stupid.  Someone is always watching.  

As I said, the pincher of the story, the glue of which the plot is held together is Mira's inability to have insight into her one sided point of view. Falling in love with Finn made her much more susceptible to being discovered.   Finn was a sweet man, very honorable and professional and had a good grasp on his position within the country and the role he has to play.  But when he is thrown into the reality of having someone you love taken away from you, he became a bit more dimensional. The love between Finn and Mira was evident.  I got a clear picture of their attraction, respect and admiration for each other.  The fact that this man could tie down this free spirited woman say a lot about said man's character. 

While the author is an actual wife of an ambassador, this novel isn't an autobiography.  It's a love story and one of survival and healing.   Overall, an intense novel with a good plot. It caused me to have pause, to reflect on my personal freedoms and allowed me to realize how lucky I am. It enticed feelings of nervousness, irritation and joy; you know it's good when you experience more than one emotion while reading!  If you enjoy political reads, I would pick this one up.  

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