Historical fiction that takes off in the 1950’s, More Than You Know describes how different the lives and expectations of the wealthy and working class were and what happened when someone tried to break out of the mold. The privileged were expected to marry the privileged and the men had the financial control in the household while the women stayed home and took care of the kids.
Eliza Clark, the main character, is more of a feminist, choosing to pursue her dream career in fashion instead of getting married. She comes from a privileged family and all her mother wants is for her to marry the man who can give her everything money has to offer. Enter Matt Shaw, a working class citizen. The two are introduced by Eliza’s brother, and become involved in a relationship. When she becomes pregnant, she quits her job, marries Matt – despite her mother’s wishes – and becomes a stay at home mom.
The marriage becomes challenged as Eliza’s dissatisfaction with being a stay at home mom grows. She misses the fast paced career life, and has difficulty dealing with a demanding daughter. Her relationship with Matt becomes more and more strained over time, especially when they lose their second child at birth.
Matt’s very sexist beliefs about the role of a woman in the house, his views on money, and traditional views of a woman’s place in the marriage are dispersed throughout the story. He controls the money, and he refuses to allow Eliza to work even when she has great job offers. Eventually, Matt becomes successful through his business ventures and suddenly feels powerful, forgetting where he started from. This shift in dynamics makes it hard to relate to him at all. As Matt and Eliza eventually distance themselves from one another, Eliza is caught in a one-night affair and divorce proceedings begin.
And that is where the book suddenly becomes engaging! I could feel the emotions of both sides and their custody battle was a very traumatic process. I felt very disconnected from both Eliza and Matt, not believing in their marriage, only because the view of marriage nowadays is so different than what it seemed to be for them. I lost even more respect for them when the divorce started.
Penny Vincenzi does give insight as to why Eliza fell in love with Matt in the first place; the era where women took a back seat to men seems foreign yet real at the same time. The only person I really felt bad for was the little daughter who was caught up in the tumultuous battle. I learned quite a bit about how things were back in the old days and despite growing up in an era where women have equal rights, it is infuriating to think how limited roles were in generations past. More Than You Know definitely reminded me of how far women have advanced since the ’50s!
Ann Liu loves to read women’s fiction, chick-lit, romance, and self help books. She lives in sunny Southern California, where she can enjoy her time reading outdoors.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Doubleday. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.