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Il complotto delle mogli by Fritz Leiber

Il complotto delle mogli (1943)

by Fritz Leiber, Paola Eusebio (Translator)

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4261024,790 (3.72)44
Title:Il complotto delle mogli
Authors:Fritz Leiber
Other authors:Paola Eusebio (Translator)
Info:Edizioni DB, 1^ Edizione: Aprile 2008, Paperback
Collections:Read, Your library
Tags:Fantasy, B-1-2

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Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber (1943)


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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Meh, it was OK. Some portions of this novel were so mundane and rambley. I was screaming at the novel, would you get to the point? I am not sure, I think the story line was wonderful. In essence, anything to do with witchcraft, I will probably enjoy it. But the narrator Norman, man, he really pissed me off early on. He was such an idiot, and he was relentlessly annoying.
The ending was SO confusing, I felt the author was simply unable to describe his ending well. It was a GREAT concept, but poorly executed, that's my final judgment and I am sticking to it. ( )
  XoVictoryXo | Jun 28, 2017 |
Our narrator is a bit of male pig, but Leiber's gift is in achieving great economy with instilling fear of the unknown. ( )
1 vote dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |

There are things that Conjure Wife does tolerably well. Set in a New England college in the 1930s, it can be seen as in some ways a taproot text for future campus horror stories; the climax where Saylor attempts to rescue his wife's soul is well-paced and gripping; there are some very effective descriptive passages. But these cannot excuse the fact of the central premise of the book: all women are, in fact, clandestine witches, and keeping it secret from us men (and from each other to an extent). The mind boggles; I guess the kindest thing to say is that the genre has come some way since 1943. ( )
2 vote nwhyte | Oct 13, 2013 |
Rating: 3.5 of 5

Everyone knows the saying, "Behind every great man, there's a great woman." Well, in Conjure Wife, the great woman is a witch, and her great man doesn't know that. And it's worldwide: all women are witches, and they either know of or practice witchcraft.

Here's the gist:

One day, feeling good and taking a moment to reflect on his life, Norman Saylor, a professor of sociology at Hempnell College, begins to ponder his successes, one of which he considers his wife, Tansy. How did I get so lucky? Norman wonders. How did Tansy fare so well as a professor's wife? Those questions prompt Norman to snoop through his wife's closet and drawers. And what should he discover? The tell-tale signs of someone dabbling in "conjure magic." He's shocked!

"If he had ever wondered about Tansy and superstitions at all, it had only been to decide, with a touch of self-congratulation, that for a woman she was almost oddly free from irrationality (p. 22)."

A confrontation with Tansy ensues, turns into a nearly four-hour long discussion, at the end of which Norman demands Tansy stop her "neurotic" behavior at once. Tansy reluctantly agrees; after all, she was only ever doing magic to protect Norman.

That's when the unlucky "coincidences" begin piling up on Norman: threats from an expelled student; charges of a sexual relationship with a female student; scrutiny of his personal life and friends by the college's trustees, and on and on. The "coincidences" culminate with the disappearance of his wife.

But to rescue Tansy, Norman will have to practice a little conjure magic himself. The problem is, of course, he finds the whole idea ridiculous. Will Norman save Tansy? If he does, what will be the implications? The consequences?

Here are my two cents:

The sexism, oh the sexism. Because Conjure Wife is told in a limited third-person narrative, Norman Saylor could make or break the story. After reading a couple chapters of his thoughts, I feared I may not be able to finish. In fact, I forced myself to remember the setting - 40s/50s - and cut Norman some slack for his stereotypical, insensitive, often laughable assessments of people, especially women. (For example, see the above quote from page 22 in addition to the below.)

"...(in a similar situation would he have dared try reasoned argument on any other woman?)(p. 31)."

Once I decided to ignore that part of Norman's personality, I realized he still wasn't very likeable. But it was interesting to see the world through Norman's eyes, especially when he filtered everything through the rules of science. Although, I'll admit, it did get a tad annoying to have him go back and forth, back and forth. And even to go so far as to see if there was a mathematical formula for spells.

I liked Tansy, though, and the premise was an interesting one.

But it's not really new, is it? Men throughout history have feared "woman." Suspected her of being connected to some secret force, nature, even the Devil. Possibly in a conspiratorial capacity with other women. Wondered about her intuition. Faulted her for being more emotional than man. It's inherent for most, fearing what we do not understand.

However, I don't think fear of witchcraft or even a secret alliance among women was Norman's deepest fear. I think what he most feared was not really knowing his wife. That he could live with someone for so many years - I believe it was 15 years they'd been together - trust her, think he had her all figured out, only to discover she wasn't exactly who he imagined. Hell, that's scary for anyone in a relationship.

"He looked at her, trying to comprehend it. It was almost impossible to take at one gulp the realization that in the mind of this trim modern creature he had known in completest intimacy, there was a whole great area he had never dreamed of...(p.21-22)."

Once I saw that Norman did, in fact, love his wife, it was easier for me to sit back and enjoy the story. He used science the way many people use religion: a way to make sense of (or cope with) all the craziness, all the chaos, that is life. A constant in the ever shifting variables. And, for most, it's an unshakeable, unchangeable belief system.

Here's what you might not like about Conjure Wife:

* Sexism
* Racism
* The protagonist (Norman)
* Norman's always-on scientific filter
* Not "urban fantasy" as boasted on this edition's cover
* Falls under psychological or literary horror; there's nothing overtly scary or gory

Final thoughts

While its horror elements are mild and slow-building, Conjure Wife is most frightening for what's going on below the surface rather than its stated premise. I recommend it to fans of the slow burn style of supernatural horror, who are willing to overlook the (hopefully) outdated viewpoints and plan to take the time to think about the story once they close the book.

Originally published on my blog, Unleash the Flying Monkeys! ( )
2 vote flying_monkeys | Apr 14, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Fritz Leiberprimary authorall editionscalculated
Grigiani, FrancoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Norman Saylor was not the sort of man to go prying into his wife's dressing room.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765324067, Paperback)

Professor Norman Saylor considered magic nothing more than superstition.  Then he learned that his own wife was a practicing sorceress.  But he still refuses to accept the truth…that in the secret occult warfare that governs our lives, magic is a matter of life and death.  And that unbeknownst to men, every woman knows it.

Filmed twice, as Weird Woman (1944) and Burn Witch Burn (1961), this tale of secret witchcraft on a modern college campus is as readable today as the day it was written.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:01 -0400)

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