It’s the perfect love story.
Lily Meets Ed at a party, and on their second date, he proposes. She’s a lawyer, he’s an up-and-coming artist. They own a small but beautiful flat in London and mix with all the right people.
But Lily has a secret. Something from her past, that is soon to collide with her present. And she thinks her new husband is hiding something too…
The vows they made will soon be tested to the very limits. ‘Till death us do part…’
‘Can a marriage end in murder? Even if it’s already dead?’
I was intrigued from the start by the title of this book, which raised a whole lot of questions for me before I had even started reading. Is there a secret wife and the husband is a bigamist? Is the wife referring to herself? I love a great title and cover and this title certainly whet my appetite for this book.
To be honest I had this book sitting on my Kindle waiting to be read for a while and I had pretty much forgotten the book’s description when I had started reading. I read the description after I had finished and I don’t think it does the book justice. This is such a multi-layered, cleverly crafted plot and this does not shine through for me in the blurb.
It begins with us being told about the death of artist Ed Macdonald and then rewinds back fifteen years. The story is split into two parts and told, chapter by chapter, by newly-wed, successful lawyer Lily, in first person narrative, and nine year old, daughter of Lily’s neighbour, Carla, in third person narrative. An interesting way of writing the two voices, the different narrative structures adding a distinctly different tone to both characters.
My Husband’s Wife is a slow burner. The first part concentrating on Lily and her husband’s life and the life of Carla and her mother. Lily and Ed married very quickly after initially meeting. It is clear that all is not well within the marriage and both spouses are harbouring their fair share of secrets and lies.
‘But that’s how some lies start. Small. Well meaning. Until they get too big to handle.’
Carla and her mother, Francesca, are Italian and do not have any contact with their family in Italy. Carla is having a difficult time at school and is not helped by her mother who, for the most part, seems to be more interested in meeting her own needs. Carla, Lily and Ed meet following an incident at Carla’s school and their relationships are formed when Lily and Ed care for Carla while her mother is supposedly at work. I did wonder at first what exactly Carla’s role was in the story, however, it all begins to make sense.
The second part of the book takes us forward a few years and Carla is now an adult. It all comes together beautifully, and the first part of the book is needed to gain an understanding of the actions and events that follow.
The characterisation is fantastic. Lily is guilt-ridden, trying to escape from her past experiences. Her meeting of Joe Thomas, who she represents through his legal appeal after being found guilty of murder, impounds on her feelings about her past and, through him, she feels she can gain some redemption for her previous actions.
Carla is a precocious child, however, I really felt for her. Her life with her mother is not easy and she is impacted upon by her mother’s actions. I could really empathise with the anxiety she feels during the first part of the book. As an adult she is manipulative and conniving, yet with glimpses of a conscience which, for me, made her a more authentic character. She misplaces the blame for the way her and her mother’s lives have turned out.
There are so many twists and turns in this book. My jaw dropped open so many times with each revealed revelation it began to ache!
‘..one never really knows a person properly. Especially ourselves. Every human is a melting pot of contradictions.’
For me this is a story about trying to escape from your past, misplaced blame and the impact of guilt. Jane has written so eloquently about how the past and the actions of others can affect your behaviour it made me hold my breath. Added to this are the plot twists I never saw coming, all making for a brilliant read.
A very accomplished debut novel that I cannot recommend highly enough. This book blew me away! I cannot wait to read more by this author.
Thank you Jane Corry, Penguin Books and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
E-book version out 26 May 2016, paperback published 25 August 2016 by Penguin Books.
Review written 27 May 2016.