All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

on December 8, 2021

The Younger Wife
Sally Hepworth
Pan Macmillan AUS
2021, 336p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/}: The moment she laid eyes on Heather Wisher, Tully knew this woman was going to destroy their lives.

Tully and Rachel are murderous when they discover their father has a new girlfriend. The fact that Heather is half his age isn’t even the most shocking part. Stephen is still married to their mother, who is in a care facility with end-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

Heather knows she has an uphill battle to win Tully and Rachel over – particularly while carrying the shameful secrets of her past. But, as it turns out, her soon-to-be stepdaughters have secrets of their own.

The announcement of Stephen and Heather’s engagement threatens to set off a family implosion, with old wounds and dark secrets finally being forced to the surface.

A garage full of stolen goods. An old hot-water bottle, stuffed with cash. A blood-soaked wedding. And that’s only the beginning…

I have read all of Sally’s Hepworth’s other books except one (only because I am too fragile for the subject matter) and I think she’s a fabulous writer. She has always written incredibly compelling books that you can sink into and emerge, hours later, when you’ve turned the last page, completely unaware of the time that has passed. And this book was actually not an exception. I’d already finished one book the day I picked it up – my hockey team were playing and it was first intermission and the stream I’m using doesn’t always show the intermission show, sometimes it just plays a generic screen with annoying music telling me it’s a commercial break. So I picked this up to read during that….and ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting. When the hockey came back, it’s not like it was going to distract me. We ended up losing 4-1 anyway and for the most part, reading this was a much better way to spend my time.

Tully is horrified when her father asks her to lunch to meet Heather, only to then announce that they’re engaged. For one, her father is still married. To her mother. And Heather is younger than both Tully and her sister Rachel are. For Tully, it’s one more thing in her world that’s slowly getting out of control. And she’s powerless to stop it. Rachel is less outwardly distraught by the news but she’s got her own problems to deal with as well.

I thought the set up of this was excellent – Tully and Rachel are around late thirties, Tully is married with two young sons and Rachel is single. The women are slowly losing their mother. She has Alzheimers and is now in a care facility and now their father is marrying again. In some ways, neither of them can begrudge him this. Their mother has not been herself for a while now and things will only get much worse. But in other ways….it feels incredibly crass to be getting engaged. Whilst their mother is still alive. And still married to their father. And to a woman who is younger than they are, that they do not know. Who was the interior designer that their parents hired to remodel their house.

It would’ve been really easy to portray Heather as the simplest of villains here. It’s the default setting in fiction for a younger women marrying an older man, especially when that older man has daughters. But Hepworth took the time to make Heather much more than the caricature she could’ve easily been, giving the reader a chance to see her through Tully’s eyes before giving us Heather’s perspective and her background.

So much of the set up was great but I have to admit, the further I got into it and the more secrets started spilling out, I started to wonder if perhaps there was just a little too much crammed into the one story. Too many issues to really give Hepworth the chance to explore all of them in depth and with the time that each would take to honestly flesh out properly what each one really meant for the characters. I felt that this was particularly true of Rachel. That for me, needed much more time and also, some more devotion to it in the aftermath. I also felt that it was somewhat true for Heather and her past. Even some of Tully’s issues (and there are a multitude) felt only touched on and could’ve easily been developed a little more.

I also flat out hated the final chapter or 2nd epilogue or whatever it was. I do not think that needed to be there, and that of all issues, that wasn’t the one to introduce ambiguity into (or to attempt to). If that had been left out, I probably would’ve still had some issues with so much that had been crammed in there but I wouldn’t have finished the book feeling like I did. I can’t remember really getting irritated about a literary device before like that, it felt like a last minute flippant attempt to be clever, to introduce doubt but it’s the sort of issue that’s damaging to portray that. I didn’t like it unfortunately.

Not my favourite Sally Hepworth novel.


Book #218 of 2021

The Younger Wife is book #90 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2021

2 responses to “Review: The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

  1. Lloyd Russell says:

    I actually liked this one quite a bit. It was a 9/10 for me. I agree that she’s a very good writer.

    Lloyd (408) 348-4849

    On Tue, Dec 7, 2021 at 3:01 PM All The Books I Can Read wrote:

    > 1girl2manybooks posted: ” The Younger WifeSally HepworthPan Macmillan > AUS2021, 336pRead via my local library Blurb {from the > publisher/}: The moment she laid eyes on Heather Wisher, Tully > knew this woman was going to destroy their lives. Tully and Rachel ar” >

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