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William Gerhardie: My Wife’s the Least of it

The title of this novel was to be My Wife: A Study in Insanity, which horrified his publishers. (The original title was to be Moving Pictures.) Gerhardie, of course, never married. It is the story of Charles Baldridge, an elderly man, who seeks to write a film script to save himself from bankruptcy. Baldridge is, of course, Gerhardie or, rather, Gerhardie as he might become (and, in fact, was to become). Baldridge was once a famous writer but is now forgotten. The novel is basically his attempt to get his script accepted. As in his previous work, the line between tragedy and comedy is very thin. Poor Baldridge gets caught up in a series of promises, pointless meetings and rejections, which are both funny but sad as it becomes increasingly apparent that Baldridge is going nowhere.

Sadly, it is all apparent that, by this time, Gerhardie’s own gifts are waning. There are some very funny scenes and some very moving scenes but the book seems too long – the first edition has 544 pages – and, at times, seems repetitive. It is, sadly, the final testament of an author at the end of his creative journey, this being Gerhardie’s final novel.

Publishing history

First published 1938 by Faber and Faber