Book Club #4 – The Mistress’s Revenge – Tamar Cohen

Perhaps something different to start the book group meeting this time. Three little cards, with three faces – and around we go with what card and image best summed up the book for each member. Of everyone there we had 1 ‘loved’ it, 1 ‘hated’ it and 3 ‘not quite sure’. S could not make it but as I have the group (closed) up on Facebook, it means those that missed can still make comments!

General opinion was that Sally made you want to scream; you wanted to actually get into the book and give her a good shake. L felt no empathy with her at all and I think the rest of us actually changed their minds about half way through the book, and actually started to feel for her as Sally’s downward spiral became more apparent.

We all agreed that actually, what we felt the most was for Sally’s children Jamie and Tilly. Innocent victims in all this and that it was the destruction of this which was heart breaking. The forgetting of birthdays and the lack of feeling that she had for her daughter when she was approached by the man in the leather jacket. The mothers in the group all agreed that was the most unforgivable thing, your duty as a mother was to be that a mother. Sally was cold to her children, no love it had gone way beyond this (L). Those children would be affected forever and would probably shape them for the future. S commented that her attitude to her children was really bad as well as that towards her husband, Daniel.

As we all sat there rationally, we questioned why Daniel, Sally’s husband had not ‘stepped up to the mark’ and actually done something about what was going on to his family. He was as much responsible for the destruction of his family as Sally. But I was glad he had a happy ending, despite these shortcomings. C was convinced that Daniel started an affair with Sian towards the end of his relationship with his wife, and that perhaps Sian was trying to absolve herself of the part she played in the clandestine meetings.

Clive on the other hand, we all agreed was not the man he really made out, and that he was obviously as we are told in the book a perpetrator of having affairs, how many dalliances had he had whilst with Sally, in those 5 years. Did anyone feel for Susan, his wife? L said she was just a wife in the story, she was just there and that she must have known on some level and turned a blind eye. But then Clive was weak, not from his affairs but also the fact that he was jot going to get his hands dirty in trying to distance him from Sally. This affair was getting far to close for comfort. Now Susan suddenly seeks out her own revenge perhaps and is suddenly not just seen as a wife?

Who does the book appeal to? Women readers without a doubt, and that leads to group confessions of where we have had a similar experience, nothing to the extreme though of Sally’s behaviour. K loved the book, if you wanted a book which was a guide book on how to seek revenge then this was the book for you. Also if you have suffered from any mental health issue, then both K and I agreed that it was a book which reflected that quite well. C understood how if you had experienced such an issue then your approach to the book would be very different.

I read out from some of the author’s own words:

“The wonderful thing about writing a character like Sally is that is allows you to give free rein to the kind of thoughts you’d normally keep safely bottled up inside. As Sally’s grip on reality falters, so her ideas and actions became more extreme. There’s something incredibly liberating about writing a character who [sic] is out of control, even if there were times I almost had to look away while I was typing. “

We had to look away as readers in some places, the pink dress, the flirting with the son and then that moment in the hospital.

This was a book of now, it reflected on how easy it was to play your life out online through Facebook and Twitter and how you can check up on anyone, and follow them without them knowing, Not even leaving your own safe ‘cubbyhole’ where it was comfortable and protected and nothing in life was going wrong, whilst outside all around you was collapsing spectacularly from your own actions. Reality checks with the amount of emails being sent between Sally and Clive (C) but also how it was easy to check what Clive was doing by entering passwords to access emails after the affair broke up.

And so to the end of a great couple of hours – None of us thought that Sally learnt anything about herself, if she had been single then perhaps more empathy would have been felt by L but she knew what she was doing and that it was always going to affect other people. All the time it was underneath bubbling away:

When I look back on the woman who hovered in the doorway of that hospital room…..she seems like someone else. And yet at the same time, I know that she is still lodged somewhere inside me. She is just – oh, what’s the oncological term?. – in remission. 

S thought she deserved what she got, in the complete breakdown of her family. K did not like the ending of the book. It was rather lacklustre, and could quite easily have stopped earlier without what happened. I don’t think any of us knew what was going to happen but had to keep reading to the end to find out. The use of no chapters that L and L did not even realise but annoyed both C and I because there was no pause, it was the stream of consciousness and was obviously the intention of Tamar Cohen. It was a read which took a couple of days for most, and I think the general consensus was that we would recommend it but the author’s partner better be wary!

Another great evening (I think) and a few books swapped and talked about. Next book is Jodi Picoult and House Rules, quite a chunky one for us to get stuck into. Then I think we are going for a Simon Kernick thriller for November but have yet to think of anything for December Something short or Christmas themed? 

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