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Article  •  12 July 2023


Check out the book that booksellers are loving right now

Anna Funder's book Wifedom has wowed some of the most plugged-in people in the book industry. Here's what they had to say.

It goes without saying that booksellers read – a lot.

Though you might not realise it, early decisions like quantities, book club picks and more are decided by these unsung tastemakers. And with hundreds of new books published each month, they have a vast sample size to choose from.

So when booksellers start praising a specific book, it's often a sign to listen up.

Right now, that book is Wifedom by Anna Funder. Telling the untold story of George Orwell's wife, Eileen, Wifedom is a genre-bending work that dives in and out of history to ask hard-hitting questions. What does it mean to be a wife? What does it mean to be a woman? How has the work of wives and women been minimised throughout history – and why?

Whether you consider yourself a literary history buff or not, Funder's mastery at weaving together biography, memoir and counter-fiction will suck you in.

If that's not intriguing enough already, read on to see early praise from booksellers. Trust us. You don't want to miss this one.

Bookseller reviews for Wifedom

  • It's quite impossible for mortals to write about exceptional writers' books, but here's mine.
    Eric Blair was a jerk, and George Orwell a genius. Eileen O'Shaughnessy, Orwell's first wife, put up with the former and nurtured the latter. In Wifedom, Anna Funder has created a profound portrait of Eileen and her marriage. It mediates on how the support role, the 'wife', gets written out of the lives of these creative heroes yet is so necessary to their works of art. I'm still thinking (and hissing) about this book several weeks after finishing it. It is, of course, beautifully written and structured, and Anna's thoughtful, deeply personal insights fuelled my emotional response to this remarkable book.
    Karen Ferris, Berkelouw Books/Harry Hartog

  • An exploration of a literary couple and the demands that a writing life makes. An ode to the unsung work of women. A picture of the wife missing in six biographies of Orwell. A brilliant book.
    Carol, Torquay Books

  • Funder has an enviable array of tools at her disposal. She is tenacious in her research, astute and compassionate in her observations on the distribution of power and the right to a voice. She writes with elegance and clarity; she inhabits – or rather shares – the space of this neglected but hugely competent, creative, and self-effacing young woman with a delicacy and calm that work to coax Eileen out of the shadows. Funder gives her a new, deeply saddening and endlessly haunting life. I believe she will live with me for a long time to come.
    Katy Downey, The Leaf Bookshop

  • I loved the blend of anecdotes from the author about her own life and how she used her own writing journey and persona to compare with how Orwell created such literary masterpieces with the 'perfect conditions' that biographers noted he had. There is always more than meets the eye!
    Em, Coventry Bookstore

  • It won't disappoint – I can only find superlatives to describe my response. Magnificent, profound, utterly original genre-bending work will do, to begin with. Wifedom moves seamlessly from the known facts and history of the life of Eileen O'Shaughnessy, wife of George Orwell, to the imagined world behind the letters written by her to her best friend and takes in, for good measure, contemporary reflections and responses from Funder to her own world as writer, wife, mother. It's a dazzling and captivating and challenging achievement. A tour de force. Read it and see.
    David Gaunt, Gleebooks

  • Funder has stitched together the intimate fragments of a wife left behind, sewing fiction and fact with a darner's deftness. Wifedom was an intimate, subversive, absorbing read.
    Madeleine Delaney, Fullers Bookshop

  • What a glorious affirmation of the creative credentials of the author of All That I Am and Stasiland, to be able to construct such an intoxicating helix of narrative, a double helix, an impossible tetrahedron, a Penrose triangle that winds and unwinds, folds in on itself and opens out into a bloom of truths and questions and prose and lives; the chronicles of a marriage and two wartime lives and deaths. The invisible made visible, the imagined made real, the real made more real and somehow new.
    Funder's Wifedom is a true and rare success in the much-lauded and frequently doomed 'genre-bending masterpiece' category publishers so love to promote and readers (sometimes) so struggle to embrace. In this story of George Orwell's first wife, Eileen, and the orbiting stories of those around her (including Orwell himself), and Funder's own remarkably elegant acquiescence to confronting her own roles as wife and writer, never for a moment do the intersections between her biographical portrait and her fictionalised constructions lose rhythm with one another, slip out of balance, or feel anything other than intelligent, compassionate, insightful, beautiful. Eileen is vivid, passionate, empathetic, and fascinating in Funder's hands, and Orwell (with whom Funder dances a confronting negotiation of realisation as she comes to terms with personal truths about an artist she has long idolised) is flawed but never villainised, their relationship deep and perplexing, painful and honest. Through all that, Funder's interrogations of the history and reality of the patriarchy, the intricacies of human relationships, the struggles of art, and the questions of what it means to live a life, seen or unseen, soar eloquently, deeply, easily, compellingly. Hard recommend.
    Anica Boulanger-Mashberg, Hobart Bookshop 

Interested? Read a snippet

Feature Title


A blazing, genre-bending masterpiece from one of the most inventive writers of our time.

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