I’ve recently finished The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve. Published 1998, most people have probably already enjoyed it. If not, I’d recommend it as a good beach read.
I bought the novel at a bookstore that specializes in mysteries and having completed it, I’m hard pressed to say why the work belongs in that category. Mostly, it’s about a widow’s reflection on her ten years of marriage to a pilot killed in a plane explosion. Why the disaster occurred is the mystery, I suppose; but the thrust of the story is about the woman’s conflicted feelings for her husband.
This miscasting of The Pilot’s Wife got me to thinking about how other books are marketed. I know the publishing industry loves genre. Just as one doesn’t expect to find broccoli in the cookie section of the local grocery store, publishers presume buyers shop for books with the same expectations.
But a book isn’t broccoli. They are places where ideas co-mingle so genre can be misleading. Shreve’s story might have sat comfortably beside the works of Maeve Binchy and Rosamunde Pilcher, better, in fact, than beside Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Why publishers and agents market books as they would groceries confounds me. Maybe they underestimate the public’s intelligence. If so, they are wrong to do so. My guess is that if a book is well-written, customers will look for it on any shelf.