I picked up The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows from where it had been patiently awaiting me on the shelf more or less on a whim… and got immediately sucked in. At first I couldn’t quite see how Agatha and Penelope were going to work — and in that sense the book was very much a slow burn and definitely put the work in! I believed in it without question by the end, for sure — and I also believed that they would be good for one another.
Agatha and Penelope are both rather independent, but each in their own way, bringing their own strengths to the partnership. Agatha is practical, focused on her goals of managing her business and her son as he comes of age-but she lacks idealism and joy. Those things aren’t lacking around Penelope, though she has yet to find her voice and her joy. From being quite unlike, you quickly come to understand why they complement each other and work well as friends — better than they might have imagined.
They are the main characters, of course, but there’s much to enjoy in the supporting cast: Penelope’s ‘husband’ and his real relationship with Penelope’s brother; the shocking and unrepentant poet, Joanna Molesey; Sidney, Agatha’s son, and Eliza, his lover… the supporting cast all have their charms and their stories, and help to bring the story to life.
Another aspect some readers will be keen on is the fact that Agatha and Penelope are mature women: Agatha has an adult son, after all! This isn’t a story of blemishless, stunning young women, but one of women who have lived, and enjoy that in one another. Pretty as the cover is, too, it’s misleading — Agatha and Penelope are average women, not higher class debutantes.
To my surprise, the book fell together for me very well, despite my initial scepticism about the characters and how they’d fit together. And their little revenge against closed-minded prigs in their community is rather enjoyable…