The Wives of Bath


243 pages
ISBN 0-394-28006-7
DDC C813'.54





Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is associate editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


Susan Swan’s latest novel is set in Bath Ladies College, a girls’
boarding school loosely based on Toronto’s Havergal College. On the
school’s front door are inscribed the words “Our daughters shall be
useful and ornamental, like the clover that smells sweet in the
meadow.” Two boarders, narrator Mary Bradford (aka Mouse) and Paulie
Sykes, seek to transcend the prison of gender (it is the prefeminist
early 1960s) by aspiring to a masculinity rooted in popular culture.
Paulie worships at the altar of King Kong, while the objects of
Mouse’s veneration are JFK and her own father, a workaholic doctor and
classic absent parent. While Mouse’s rebellion essentially takes place
within her own consciousness, Paulie translates her convictions into
action, with horrifying results. This energetic and bizarre sexual
coming-of-age tale is short on psychological depth but long on


Swan, Susan., “The Wives of Bath,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,