Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife

Conjure Wife – Fritz Leiber

Penguin – 1969 (Originally published 1949)

I really enjoyed Our Lady of Darkness (both times I read it), and I felt like it was time to revisit Fritz Leiber. Conjure Wife was first published in 1949. It’s the story of a college professor who discovers that his wife has been practicing witchcraft behind his back. He thinks this is a shameful load of nonsense, so he tells her to stop. Shortly after this, he realises that her magic has been protecting him from the spells of the other witches. It turns out that his wife isn’t the only witch on campus. Actually, most women are really witches.

Now, the title ‘witch’ don’t apply to all women,

but all women have a little witch in ’em

Fritz Leiber

It’s a pretty simple premise, but Leiber makes it work really well. The conflict is mainly psychological, occurring in the protagonist’s head. I read somebody comment that the novel’s description of women isn’t “generous”, but I don’t agree. The tension in the book, and there’s loads of it, is largely created by the unwillingness of the male protagonist to believe what is happening to him. He’s an idiot. The women are running the show here. This book is only demeaning to women if you think of witchcraft as a bad thing.

While some of the magic in here is rather fantastic, a lot of it is the kind of stuff that I don’t entirely disbelieve in. It seems to me that Leiber had a very clear understanding of the nature of magic.

Fritz Leiber was a cool guy. I read somebody describe him as the link between Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick, and apparently he corresponded with both. That itself is enough to impress me, but the books I’ve read by him are awesome too. I’ve heard that his short stories are some of his best work, so I’ll probably look at them next. I don’t know if there’s a specific collection that I should go for. Part of me wants to just read the horror ones, but I’m sure that’s dumb. Let me know if you have any recommendations.

One thought on “Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife

  1. I have nice editions of this and Our Lady of Darkness that were published by Centipede Press as limited hardcovers a few years ago. Conjure Wife was filmed as Weird Woman and later as Night of the Eagle which is definitely the best version.


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