In the rarified world of New York's Upper East Side, coolly elegant Philippa Lye is the envy of all the mothers at the school gate. Despite a shadowy past, Philippa has somehow married a true 'master of the universe', the scion of the last family-held investment bank in the city. And although this puts her at the centre of this world of hedge funds and privilege, she refuses to conform.
Then, into her precariously balanced life, comes two women: Gwen Hogan, an awkward childhood acquaintance who uncovers an devastating secret about Philippa's past, and Minnie Curtis, a newcomer whose frank revelations about her upbringing in Spanish Harlem and probing into the women's private lives unsettles everyone.
When Gwen unwittingly leads her husband, a prosecutor in the US Attorney's Office, to stumble over the connection between Philippa's past and the criminal investigation he is pursuing at all costs, the whole delicate ecosystem of wealth and privilege becomes a tinder box set to explode.
Caitlin Macy is the author of The Fundamentals of Play and Spoiled. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine and Slate. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
Simon and Schuster
Author: Caitlin Macy
Question: What inspired the story of Mrs.?
Caitlin Macy: I was standing outside my daughters' school noticing how nicely dressed and put-together everyone was but at the same time thinking about the days of wild parties and hooking up, as we called it"perhaps it's called something else now? The juxtaposition of those two moments of a woman's life struck me"how you never know what experiences lay beneath the bourgeois niceties.
Question: How does it feel to be compared to Big Little Lies?
Caitlin Macy: Exciting! I'm a huge fan of Liane's and in awe of her story-telling. At the same time, I want to buy a tee shirt that says, "I didn't read it!" I took scrupulous care not to look at BLL once I knew the premise. I am anxious about being over-influenced by anything so I had to deny myself the pleasure of the HBO series too.
Question: What was it like creating the character of Philippa?
Caitlin Macy: Creating her and then figuring out how to deal with her was sort of the crux of the novel because if she didn't work, then the novel wouldn't. Originally a portion of Mrs. was told from her point of view. But I realized that that section was consistently boring me; I kept trying to skip ahead. It turns out damaged people aren't necessarily interesting from the inside! So I excised her POV and just let everyone else comment on her.
I enjoyed writing about a woman who poses a trial for other people"men and women; who gets people's hackles up because they can't pigeonhole her as one thing, eg an all-out bad mother or wife. I enjoyed seeing how she riled them.
Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know?
Caitlin Macy: They're not but there are certainly bits and pieces taken from real people"jobs, settings, stray remarks.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Caitlin Macy: A lot of it but again it is the passing idea, the flit of recognition that leads to narrative. I'll think, Oh, imagine if a person with this bias/quality/proclivity were in this setting and this thing happened"wouldn't that make for some nice drama?
Question: There are several issues raised in this book. Was this deliberate or did the story evolve this way?
Caitlin Macy: Not deliberate at all. I could never set out to write an expressly political book because my work is utterly character-driven; it's the only thing I know how to do. The characters' lives may then raise political issues. For instance, there's a campus rape in this book, but I certainly didn't set out to write about sexual assault.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
Simon and Schuster
Author: Caitlin Macy