The Headmaster's Wife: A Novel

The Headmaster's Wife: A Novel

by Thomas Christopher Greene

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Overview

"Part of a grand literary tradition . . . Greene's plot has the tight, relentless pacing of a fine detective novel . . . Deeply felt . . . and utterly absorbing."—The Washington Post

Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the headmaster of Vermont's elite Lancaster School. It is the place he feels has given him his life, but is also the site of his undoing as events spiral out of his control. Found wandering naked in Central Park, he begins to tell his story to the police, but his memories collide into one another, and the true nature of things, a narrative of love, of marriage, of family, and of a tragedy Arthur does not know how to address emerges. Luminous and atmospheric, bringing to life the tight-knit enclave of a quintessential New England boarding school, the novel is part mystery, part love story, and an exploration of the ties of place and family. Beautifully written and compulsively readable, The Headmaster's Wife stands as a moving elegy to the power of love as an antidote to grief.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250062338
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 02/24/2015
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 488,159
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

THOMAS CHRISTOPHER GREENE is the author of three previous novels: Mirror Lake, I'll Never be Long Gone, and Envious Moon. His fiction has been translated into eleven languages and has won many awards and honors. In 2007, Tom founded the Vermont College of Fine Arts, a top fine arts college, making him the youngest college president in America at that time. He lives in Montpelier, VT, with his family.

Read an Excerpt

ACRIMONY
 

He arrives at the park by walking down Central Park West and then entering through the opening at West Seventy-seventh Street. This is in the winter. It is early morning, and the sun is little more than an orangey haze behind heavy clouds in the east. Light snow flurries fill the air. There are not many people out, a few runners and women bundled against the cold pushing strollers.
He walks down the asphalt drive and when he reaches a path with a small wooden footbridge he stops for a moment, and it is there somewhere, a snatch of memory, but he cannot reach it. An elderly couple comes toward him, out for their morning walk. The man gives him a hearty good morning but he looks right through him. What is it he remembers? It is something beautiful, he is sure of it, but it eludes him like so many things seem to do nowadays.
If he could access it, what he would see was a day twenty years earlier, in this same spot. Though it was not winter, but a bright fall day, the maples bleeding red, and he is not alone. Elizabeth is here, as is his son, Ethan. They had gone to the museum and then had lunch before coming into the park. Ethan’s first trip to New York, and he is five, and though he loved the museum with its giant dinosaur skeletons, it is the park that draws his attention. The day could not be more glorious. Seasonably warm and without a cloud in the sky: a magical Manhattan day.
Ethan runs ahead of them on the path. His wife takes his arm, leans into him. He looks down and smiles at her. They don’t need to speak, for they are both drinking in the moment, the day, the happiness of their boy, and the gift of this experience. There is no reason to give it words.
Ethan finds a gnarled tree on the side of the path, one that grows horizontally just a foot or so above the ground. He immediately climbs up on top of it, shimmying his little body over its trunk, and the two of them sit on a bench a few feet away and watch him.
A couple of times they suggest they should keep walking, but the boy will not have it. He has found a tree perfectly suited for him and he demands in the way that children do that he be watched, admired, and studied as he climbs it one way, then the other. And this is okay, for they are in no rush. It is a small moment, but a perfect one. The child is right: Where else would they rather be? What could be more complete?
Now, standing on the same path, with the snow picking up and falling more steadily around him, he gives up trying to find this memory and instead focuses on the snow, tracing individual flakes as they come in front of his field of vision and then disappear. He is alone suddenly. There is no one walking in either direction. The park is his. He takes off his hat and places it on the ground. Then he removes his jacket. Next he undoes his tie and then his shirt and his undershirt. Soon he is naked, and he sets off again, leaving his clothes in a neat pile on the path, and he moves up and over the hilly terrain, his eyes straight ahead, oblivious to the people who gasp when they come around a corner to find him marching toward them. All that matters to him is the feel of his bare feet crunching wonderfully on the crusty snow beneath him.

 
Why don’t you tell us what happened?”
“What happened?”
“Yes.”
“Where should I start?”
“Where do you want to start?”
He looks at the men sitting across from him. It is a stupid question, he thinks.
He says, “At the beginning, of course.”
“That would be helpful,” says the man who does all the talking.
“Why do you care?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, why do you care? Just as it sounds.” He was growing exasperated. “What am I to you?”
“Sir, do we need to refresh you on how we found you?”
“I was in the park.”
One of the men laughs. The other one silences him with his hand. “Yes, you were in the park. Naked. Twenty-degree weather. Snow on the ground. Walking in Central Park naked.”
“Is that a crime?”
“Yes. It is, in fact.”
“In Vermont it’s not.”
“Seriously?”
“Yes. You can be naked. You just can’t be obscene.”
“What’s the difference?”
He sighs. He looks down at his clothes. They are too big for him. He is practically swimming in these damn clothes.
“Do I have to answer that?”
“No.”
“Good. Because that will tire me.”
“Just start, then.”
“Okay,” he says. “But I want some coffee. Strong coffee. Black.”
The man nods. “We’ll get that for you. Begin.”
He leans forward. “The beginning,” he says. “This is how it starts.”

 
Copyright © 2014 by Thomas Christopher Greene

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