2 August 2012
Book Review: The War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen
Or: imagine being happily married for 17 years. You have one daughter, a lovely home and though your husband travels a lot, you still love each other passionately.
Then one day you get a call that turns your world upside down: your husband is dead. You are devastated. You go to the funeral... And come face to face with his other widow.
Another wife, another family. It can't be true. It must be a mistake.It has to be her fault - all of it. Or: is it?
With the sharp and witty scalpel she used in The Mistress's Revenge, Tamar Cohen lays bare the raw emotions"
Selina thinks her marriage to husband Simon, whilst not perfect by any means, is pretty good. They're financially comfortable, have 3 older children who are doing well with their lives, a lovely holiday home in Tuscany, and a pretty happy lifestyle. Sure, Simon spends a lot of time away on business, but she's used to that, and it quite suits her having some time to herself. Then there's Lottie, happily married to husband Simon for 17 years with a daughter, and the three live in a small flat in London after recently returning from living in Dubai. Even after so long together, Lottie is still madly in love with her husband, and he with her, but things are about to fall apart when both of Simon's wives find out each other exists at Simon's funeral after his sudden and unexpected death. Soon enough, a war between the wives ensues as to who actually is Simon's legal wife, and which wife gave him the better life...this is a war that is going to run and run...
Cohen's debut novel The Mistresses Revenge was a book that had a pretty controversial topic, and I enjoyed the book because it was so unusual, and almost made me feel sympathy towards the mistress, even though I knew what she was doing was wrong. Luckily, Cohen has again picked another controversial topic, this time the idea of bigamy, where a man is married to more than one wife without her knowing about it. Straight away, I knew it was going to be a great read and I couldn't wait to see how the story would unfold, and what exactly would happen between the warring wives! I have to mention the cover as well, and with it's shades of emerald green, it's quite eye-catching and really pretty too - simple but effective and I love it!
The story is told through the alternating narratives of the two wives - Selina and Lottie. Immediately, I felt that I liked Lottie a lot more than Selina, she seemed much more down to earth and "normal", and I liked that she didn't care where she was living, she just wanted to be with Simon and their daughter. Selina however, gives the impression of needing the money and well-to-do lifestyle that Simon's job provides, and it doesn't seem that the pair are hugely in love and need that affection like Lottie does. The two narratives really allows you to get into the heads of the women and try and understand how they are feeling, and why they act how they do. Both narratives are written in the first person, so it manages to keep things secret until Cohen wants them revealed, and leaves us in suspense too!
I felt so sorry for both the women when Simon's duplicity is revealed, but the mystery surrounding his death is one that continues throughout the book. Both Selina and Lottie are in the dark about how and why Simon has died, as they are about his other marriage, and Selina in particular is desperate to find out what her husband was up to, especially when she starts realising she might well lose her home to Lottie if the police think Simon commited suicide. Selina did seem the stronger of the women during the book, and as it went on I warmed to her more but there was just something more likeable about Lottie, even if she does really fall apart when she learns of her husband's betrayal, as I'm sure most women would! As the book so heavily relates to these characters, there aren't too many more in there other than the children of both women, a couple of friends and family members, and that's about it, and it worked well this way.
I found that it was a gripping book, and I loved how it wasn't at all predictable and kept me on the edge of my seat as I was reading. There was a great cast of characters, and the way that both of the wives had such different lifestyles and marriages to the same man made it even better, as you still can't really understand why Simon does what he does in the book! I wasn't able to work out how Simon died and for what reasons until Cohen really wanted us to at the end, and it was a bit of a shocker, I'll give you that! The book's main focus is of course the wives and the struggle they go through with coming to terms with their husband's deceit, but I enjoyed the other small stories involving the children too, there was always something going on in the background, and I found some particular scenes involving Selina and their family dog very emotional to read as I related to it all too well :( Overall, though, a fantastic second novel from Cohen, and she cements herself as a brilliant new voice in a darker brand of women's fiction, simply excellent!
You can buy The War of the Wives as a hardback or an eBook now.