The Pavilion of Former Wives

by Jonathan Baumbach

Read time: about 4 minutes

A man nursing his recent failed marriage after a series of failed relationships earlier comes across an ad in the newspaper. He does not believe in things like these. But he decides to give it a fair shot. He visits a pavilion so he can visit himself in his former relationships.

The book is a collection of more such whimsical stories that take you to a parallel world and fill you will awe. This one is a must read.

Cover page

The cover page is as whimsical as the stories inside. The flow-y font compliments the graphic on the page. It is definitely simple but inventive cover. Deserves a place on your bookshelf.


The characters keep changing from story to story. But what remains constant is the narrator. He takes us through his different relationships throughout his life. There is self-mockery in the narration which makes you like the narrator more and more. Also, different women in his life are interesting to read about too.


The book is a collection of short stories where the narrator talks about his relationships with different women. Some stories are better than the others. The pavilion of former wives, the first story, is a whimsical one where a man just out of his recent relationship reflects on his life with all the women. It’s a story with maybe an incomplete end, which makes you keep pondering over it. Seattle is a story of old age.

Travels with wizard begins with, ‘After turning sixty amid a debilitating winter that had hung on a long beyond expectation, after his latest live-in girlfriend has elected to move on, after renewed feelings of hopelessness had moved in to replace her, the biographer Leo Dimoff, sensing the need for a radical change in his life, decided to get a dog.’ And then begins a relationship. The dog, the dog owner and a dog carer. It is again a whimsical story.

Lost car talks about the arrogance of the man in a witty narration. The night writer is another story written exceptionally well.

The entire collection has something for everyone. While I enjoyed most of the stories, I did not enjoy a few much. But as it happens in all the collectives, I do not hold this against the book.


The author is an exceptional writer. His dreamy/lucid narration takes you to a wonderland. There is also a lot of self-mockery in the narration which helps you connect with the author well. The writing is simple and witty. Just amazing!

Good points

The cover page is beautiful. The content combined with lucid narration make it one of the most exceptional books I have read lately. The narrator makes the story come alive.

Bad points

The loose ends may annoy a few readers if they like closures.


It is a brilliant collection of short stories. A definite must-read.

Whom do I recommend this to

This book is for those who like great things in small packages. Those who enjoy short fiction and vivid narration are going to love this too.

Quotable quotes

But let’s get back to the story, he tells himself, it’s the story that matters, he is only it’s executor, or caretaker perhaps, or parent, the one who keeps it clothed and fed until it is sufficiently formed to deal with the world without him around to mediate its existence.

Sanity, as I see it, is knowing when to throw away false hope. In my weaker moments, I conceded that the world is haunted.

It usually happened on the road, when he was sleeping in strange beds, and came about more often than not when he hadn’t had sex in a while, not even with himself. So what he did, was doing perhaps, was masturbate sentences. Was that what it was? Jerk them around to best advantage. To often, when he work after hours of sleep-ridden revision, exhausted from prolonged creative effort, only the worst versions of the sentences awoke with him.

Most men (and I don’t exclude myself) like to have a beautiful woman on their arm not so much for the women per se but for the macho statement it offers to the casual observer.

And if his first confession wasn’t offensive enough, he added,” for long periods I don’t think of you at all, but when I do, it’s always with regret at having lost you.”

Women have a history of misunderstanding him. Which may also mean that he has a history of sending out messages to women that are susceptible to misreading. Or, quoit being fully conscious of his motives, some part of him wants to send the wrong messages.

I received this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions are my own, completely uninfluenced.

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH