Sarah and Alexander meet in Sicily, Sarah is escaping her broken relationship and the loss of her stillborn son by being with her sister and brother in law. Alexander’s reason for Sicily is not made clear at the beginning as he is there with his son Jamie. There is a connection between Sarah and Alexander and on returning to England, Alexander asks Sarah to come and be his housekeeper and part time nanny to his son, their passionate tie seemingly forgotten.
But then there is Genevieve, Alexander’s wife the third person between Alexander and Sarah but the world to everyone else. The village where Alexander lives and brings Sarah to, treats Genevieve as their centre. Locals regard her as a minor celebrity, her beauty; her horse riding ability, her presence brings them joy. Her family are also resident there, but there are secrets that they all seem to be hiding and not acknowledging. The past is slowly catching up with them.
Sarah as an outsider suddenly starts to question everything about Genevieve and it seems Genevieve is starting to haunt Sarah. Everything points to Alexander having something to do with Genevieve missing, is he keeping one secret between them that could destroy everything? The book written in first person narrative brings you closer to Sarah immediately and you begin to question everything that she questions; the noises, the faces, the images glimpsed. It also shows the reader the depth of Sarah’s love not just for Alexander, although I think it wavers on occasions but also his son Jamie where no matter what she is willing to protect and love as if he was her son.
For me the strong female characters in this book shone through, there is Sarah as the main central character and Genevieve whose missing presence is just as strong. Louise Douglas starts to let you feel sorry for her, you worry about her missing, but as the book moves on and more is revealed then I started to change my mind. Genevieve’s mother, Virginia has the perfect life at the cost of others, and her step-daughter Claudia, Genevieve’s half sister is the antithesis to everything Virginia wants from a daughter. There are also other smaller roles, for Sarah’s sister May as a confidant and help, Betsy the only village woman who understands Sarah’s agony at being an outsider not conforming to the village ideal stereotype.
This book has a resonance of Rebecca and Jane Eyre, the perfect wife and the missing wife respectively but it stands alone from these great classic. It has drawn on Gothic thrillers and builds such tension that you have to keep reading because you start to believe that everything is not as it seems. There are twists and turns within the book, and this surprised me as I could not put all the pieces together where they made sense and come to an obvious clear conclusion. An excellent book from an unknown author to me and if this is the calibre of the writing then I hope to read more.
This was the fourth book I read for the Transworld Challenge and was excellent. A new author to me and I am now going to seek out previous novels and see how they measure up to this book.
In the ‘publicity’ of this book I can see that references are made to Rebecca and Jane Eyre, which even I do in my review but I do feel sometimes that tagging a book with such a reference can sometimes leave the reader expecting or wanting something exactly the same – they do not get that with this book. Rebecca and Jane Eyre are books in their own right, and so is this one, it should not be perhaps grouped together, although flattering to be grouped with such excellent books. I suppose that is where book genres come in.
I was not shocked by the ending, I had worked out ‘the twist’ about 100 pages before the end of the book, and it did come as rather a shock, but then it suddenly made everything else make sense. As if the clouds cleared and you could see everything exactly how it was, not fogged by images. Louise Douglas gave Sarah that feeling as well.
I have enjoyed this Transworld Challenge as I have read 3 authors I would not normally have read! Hope they do another one again soon.