Monthly Archives: August 2016

BOOK REVIEW – My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry

My Husband's Wife - Jane CorryThis is a breath-taking psychological thriller told in two parts, and from two different perspectives: Lily’s and Carla’s.

The story opens with Lily, a fairly young, recently married, newly employed lawyer, who’s off to a maximum security prison to interview Joe Thomas who’s appealing his life sentence for brutally murdering his girlfriend. I must say my first thoughts were to wonder why such a young, inexperienced lawyer would have been given a case like this, but I suppose one never knows. We learn that Joe is on the Asperger’s spectrum and his previous counsel had insufficient understanding of his condition, which lead to his conviction and sentencing, hence his appeal.

Lily is not a confident person – not within herself (she’s consciously overweight), her career or even her barely begun marriage. Her husband Ed is an up and coming artist (with a day job in advertising – one must pay the bills) with all the mood-swings, drinking and drama that go with it. Their romance was brief and Ed’s proposal when it came was somewhat of a surprise, albeit a welcome one. So Lily hasn’t quite gotten used to being part of a married couple yet and doesn’t feel that they’re on a comfortable footing. She realises though, that they should be a lot happier than they actually are, and wonders why they aren’t. She knows she’s got her own very well hidden secrets that she’s not quite ready to reveal, and realises that Ed might very well have some of his own too, which leads her to believe that maybe rushing into this marriage might not have been as wonderful as she originally thought.

The strain of Lily’s high profile case starts to take its toll as does Ed’s increasing misery with having to work at a job he can’t bear while failing to achieve his goals in the art world. Things start to become even more unbearable when he decides to quit his job to focus on his art full-time. The tension between them increases and an ultimatum is issued.

Watching them carefully is 10-year-old Carla, the unhappy little Italian girl who lives in the next door apartment with her Mamma, Francesca. She’s bullied at school for being different and she hates not having the same things as the other kids, but there just isn’t any money for luxuries. Most of all, she hates not having a father, but Francesca has told her that her father died. Carla manages to manipulate herself into Ed and Lily’s lives and more and more often they find themselves looking after her when her Mamma has to work late, or on weekends.

And then … it’s fifteen years later. Lily is now a confident, successful partner at her law firm; Ed finally achieved fame some years back, but it was short-lived and he’s constantly trying to replicate it. He and Lily are still together. Carla is a law student returning to London from Italy where she and her Mamma had been forced to return when things got too difficult for them living in London. She’s determined to find her old neighbours and get back from them what she feels is her fair due: her share of the money that Ed earned from the sale of a painting many years previously; a painting he did of her as a child, the painting that launched his career.

As you delve into the deep, dark, layers of these profoundly flawed characters, you’d better buckle up for the roller-coaster ride of your life. It starts off slow, and then builds up before taking you on the most convoluted, complex journey with some rather twisted individuals. And this is where Corry shines. She’s created characters who really aren’t likeable … at all! In fact, I don’t think I liked a single one of the central protagonists in her story: Lily, Ed, Joe, Carla, Francesca – they’re all not very nice. But they are all very real. And by starting out in the year 2000, and then jumping ahead to 2015, Corry has filled them out extremely successfully so that we’re able to gain a full understanding to what makes them tick. I think that the author shows incredible talent in having created these unpleasant people while still maintaining the reader’s interest in the story, regardless of their awfulness!

The intricacies of the criminal activity here are so cleverly back-tracked and tied together, that I was literally gasping at the skill with which it was all accomplished (both the writing, and the actual crime)! In fact, once I’d finished the book I think I tweeted something to the effect of “Oh my very goodness!” I was that awed by it all!

So 5 stars from me. It’s really extremely good, I highly recommend it (maybe keep the lights on and check behind doors and under the beds) and I can’t wait to read whatever’s next from Jane Corry.

Many thanks to THE Book Club (FB) and NetGalley for my copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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BOOK REVIEW – My Name is Leon by Kit De Waal

My Name is LeonA heart-wrenching, complex, stellar debut from Kit De Waal about the intricacies and complications of the British care system during the 80’s specifically relating to a sensitive little boy named Leon.

We meet Leon when he’s 8 (almost 9). He has a baby brother, who he adores, but his mom Carol is battling to keep up with the demands of looking after them both. There’s no money. Neither of their dads (yes, they both have different dads) are around, there are no jobs, and even if she had a job, who would look after the kids while she was at work? Carol takes to her bed and it’s left up to young Leon to look after the 3 of them, hardly a task for a little boy. But then a neighbour notices that something’s not right and the social workers are brought in.

Leon and Jake go and live with Maureen, a carer in the foster system. She’s been doing this for years and she’s kind, loving … but also, just about at the end of her foster-mom vocation. But she’s willing to take the boys in and dote on them, giving them what they’ve lacked in the department of love and attention. The problem is though, that Jake is a white baby and Leon is a now 9 years old … and not white.

Inevitably Jake is adopted. As much as Leon tries to understand this, ultimately all he really comprehends is that the 2 people closest to him in the entire world have been taken away. He endeavours to do his best to get the 3 of them back together. And then Maureen falls ill and once again Leon has to face a change. He’s packed off to go and live with her sister Sylvia, who’s also done her stint as a foster-mom in the past, but isn’t quite as easy-going and loving as Maureen is. Leon, understandably finds it difficult to adapt to yet another new environment.

He begins to explore his new neighbourhood and together with his bicycle and his backpack (loaded with all his worldly possessions) he discovers The Allotments, and a mixed up bunch of people who are just as lost as he is. It’s the mid-80’s and being of mixed race isn’t exactly viewed as a positive thing. Somehow he gets caught up in the riots in his neighbourhood, still not understanding quite what’s going on or why his new friends are angry and why they’re being beaten up.

Told through the eyes of this broken child, My Name is Leon is a sensitive, moving and absolutely devastating book about the vulnerability of children in a system that does its best, but that somehow never quite manages to do right by all who it’s responsible for.

Kit De Waal, with the proficiency of a skilled, experienced author has constructed a poignant, sensitive, often painful novel. It’s difficult to believe that this is her debut book. Her characters are so very believable that you want to reach out and comfort them. It’s not just Leon, but so many of the people who make up his world are so damaged that one can understand why this is how he conceptualises everything around him. De Waal describes individuals who are just trying desperately to do their best; to make a life for themselves out of the exceptionally miserable cards they’ve been dealt. It’s in her telling, through the eyes of a 9-year-old boy that makes it even more shattering to the reader. Children see things simply, with no pretence. They see behind the ‘pretend’ faces and voices of adults, and they react in typical childish retaliation. But as the author so aptly describes, adults react in typically grown-up ways. We analyse, we label, and we judge.

I found this book difficult to read at times, and admit that I had to put it aside more than once. But it’s an excellent debut from an author who we can definitely anticipate great things from in the future.

Many thanks to THE Book Club (Facebook) and NetGalley for my copy of this book.

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