All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Wife And The Widow by Christian White

on October 3, 2019

The Wife & The Widow 
Christian White
Affirm Press
2019, 384p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and The Widow is an unsettling thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside when she’s forced to confront the evidence of her husband’s guilt.

But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives.

Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and The Widowtakes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love?

This was probably one of my most anticipated titles for 2019. I read The Nowhere Child last year and absolutely loved it so I was always going to be interested in what Christian White did next. The day this came out I had to pop out for an errand and there was a bookshop nearby so I stopped in with the hope of being able to pick it up only to find that they didn’t have it yet. The next day I was driving to Phillip Island so I did a bit of research and hit a bookstore there – Turn The Page in the main street of Cowes is a fabulous bookshop with a very broad selection. In fact I ended up purchasing a whole stack of books and this one was the first one I picked up to read off my pile.

This book is set on an island, although one only reachable by ferry. Like Phillip Island, the population of Belport, the fictional island in the book swells in the summer months as people return to holiday houses or rent them from others and enjoy the beaches and the warmer weather. In the bleak winter (the island is off the coast of the Bellarine Peninsula, down past Geelong) the island contracts, houses are shut up and the small population of locals are the ones left going about their business.

Kate lives in Melbourne but her family keeps a summer house on the island, a gift from her in-laws after their wedding. She and her daughter travel to Tullamarine to meet her husband who is arriving home from an arduous flight from London, where he’s been for the past several weeks on business for his work. However, not only does he not get off the plane, when Kate does some research, she discovers that he never bought a ticket. And he no longer even has a job. He’s now a missing person….but Kate quickly becomes the widow when John’s body is found, down on the island where his family have their summer home. Kate wants answers and so she leaves their young daughter in the care of her grandmother while she and John’s father head down to find out just what he was doing there….and how he ended up dead.

Abby has lived on the island a long time, she and her husband are raising their two children there but sometimes it’s a struggle to make ends meet. Her husband runs a business taking care of holiday homes for people in the off season and Abby picks up shifts in the small local supermarket for cash. When a body is discovered, Abby must face a dawning horror that her husband Ray has not been his usual self….and that she may not even know who he truly is or what he is capable of.

So this was a ride. I think I really got into the atmosphere of it, because I read it down on Phillip Island, which although better connected with seemingly more of a permanent population, had the same sort of ‘feel’ as the setting. A closed, quite insular community with both a dependence on the tourism trade and a resentment of the ways in which they changed the island during the summer season. Many employed on the island rely on the good summer months to carry them through the leaner months, or like Abby and Ray, rely on the money paid to maintain their holiday homes when no one is in residence.

The narration alters between Kate and Abby as Kate discovers her husband’s disappearance and her subsequent attempts to find out precisely why he lied to her about going to London, why he hadn’t told her he wasn’t working anymore, where he is now. And when the worst is discovered, she heads down there like some sort of amateur sleuth, determined to seemingly poke around and try and get herself some answers. From the outside looking in, it seemed like before this, Kate had everything. Well off husband from a wealthy family, nice Melbourne home plus a beachside holiday home on the island. Abby on the other hand, she and her husband struggle to pay their bills every month, especially during those lean winter months. A disturbance on the island means more shifts at the supermarket for Abby to feed the cops and investigators from the mainland and she keeps an ear close to the investigation as well, because of the strange discoveries she’s made at home.

The twist in this is a big one and I’m pretty sure I won’t be the only person who flips back and re-reads a couple of pages to make sure that they’re piecing together exactly what Christian White has pulled here. There’s probably an argument for re-reading this again too, after you’ve done that putting the pieces of the puzzle together and looking for extra clues. I liked the twist, I thought it was very clever and I certainly did not guess anything like that before its reveal and afterwards I can see how the mind sees what’s in front of it without even thinking to question it. It was very well done and I admired the way the story led up to the moment.

However I think I experienced a bit of a….slump? in a way, after that reveal? Like some things in the after were a bit off pacing wise for me and I think there was one incident in particular which felt like the resolution didn’t match the action and there’s little to zero explanation of how it played out. I think I needed that. That in all, is my only tiny criticism of this story, and it is tiny really because it is so very good. Atmospheric, clever, woven well, excellent twist. And so his next release will now become one of my most anticipated 2020 (hopefully) releases. The sophomore book is always rumoured to be very difficult (and I think the acknowledgement here confirms that) but Christian White has offered up a really engaging read and backs up the brilliance of his first novel.


Book #153 of 2019

2 responses to “Review: The Wife And The Widow by Christian White

  1. I still haven’t read Nowhere Child though I want to, and I’ve just added this as well.

    • Both are amazing reads. I think The Nowhere Child just pips this one for me, perhaps because I had no expectations whereas with this one I already knew what he was capable of. I think you’ll enjoy them both!

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