2 February 2011

Book Review: The Woman He Loved Before by Dorothy Koomson

Libby always thought that she was happy in her marriage with husband Jack. She knows he has a past with his former wife Eve, but as he's reluctant to ever talk about it, Libby doesn't want to go to there. There's also the fact that in the back of her mind that she thinks Jack is still in love with Eve, and there's nothing that she can do about it. When an accident occurs, it leaves Libby wondering even more if Jack really does love her, or whether their whole marriage is a sham. Soon, she finds out some shocking truths about Eve, things she's not sure even Jack knows about his other wife, and Libby starts to wonder if she is going to end up just like Eve too... Libby's scared and frightened and feels stuck in a circle of hell with no way out...

Dorothy Koomson has quickly worked her way up to my top few chick lit authors of all time, and I eagerly await the release of any book that she brings out, simply because they have all been brilliant and Koomson hasn't let me down so far! Koomson's books always seem to have an element of mystery to her books - we know certain things about the characters and certain events, yet there is always something in the background we don't know everything about, and this is usually the crux of the story, and ends up shocking the reader, something I love about her books. Her last novel, The Ice Cream Girls, certainly didn't disappoint on this front, and now this one manages to trump even that, I was absolutely glued to this book from start to finish.

We begin at the scene of Libby and Jack's road accident. Libby is in a bad way, and she is upset at her husband about something, but we are clueless as to what. The accident is actually a very important part of the whole book, and is constantly flashed-back to throughout the book, with the accident parts occurring in italics to separate them from the present day. Surrounding this story, we have what is going on with Libby and Jack in the present day and this was also exciting to read. Libby is a likeable character - she clearly loves her husband Jack very much but feels she very much lives in the shadow of Jack's former wife Eve. Koomson writes Libby as a sympathetic character - I felt like I was meant to dislike Jack for how he treats Libby, but for me neither of these were the best character in the book.

Eve is the one character we hear a lot about right from the start of the book, yet in reality we know nothing definite about her until halfway through when Libby makes a discovery at their home which threatens both her marriage to Jack and her own mental state. Libby discovers something that belongs to Eve, something which reveals every intimate detail about the woman who Jack still adores, and Libby is shocked by this information. The way Koomson reveals this to her readers is perfect - the whole scenario of Libby finding this out and her reactions make it all the more thrilling because I was convinced I could see how it was all going to work out, yet Koomson had me fooled once more! Eve's story builds and builds throughout the latter half of the book, sending the book hurtling to a dramatic and exciting conclusion.

As usual, Koomson hasn't shied away from a very gritty topic, and this one was probably the grittiest I have read from her so far. It's hard to review this aspect because I don't want to give the topics away because for me, uncovering Eve's story was the best thing about it and not knowing anything was a bonus without a doubt. Suffice to say, it's not a topic that is easy to read about, yet I found myself completely dedicated to the book, despite some of the more graphic scenes and nature of this part of the book. Koomson makes it compelling to read, and I felt so sorry for Eve, she is such a likeable character caught in an impossible situation, and you can't help but sympathise yet read with horror every action she takes, and you are just sure it is going to end horribly, yet Koomson twists and turns the story so much, I couldn't guess the ending for the life of me.

As you can probably tell from this glowing review, I absolutely adored this book and just couldn't put it down. It's a big chunk of a book at 464 pages, but it whizzed by for me, I was so absorbed in the story and desperate to find out what on earth was happening with Eve, Libby and Jack that I didn't notice the chapters flying by. I really liked how Koomson presented the story, with the flashbacks to the accident throughout the book keeping your mind on that mystery, then flitting to present day and back again to the information Libby uncovers about Eve. It's easy to follow despite these threads, and the stories all inter-mingle perfectly, making an absolutely stunning read. I cannot recommend it enough!

Rating: 5/5


  1. I am looking forward to this book, I noticed it is on order with the Library.

  2. sarah broadhurst2 February 2011 at 18:24

    great review for a brilliant book! Dorothy Koomson always seems to be able to write briliant books about gritty subjects.
    It will be another long wait to her next release though

  3. Have loved all of Dorothy's other books so am eagerly waiting for my pre-ordered copy ;)

  4. I am a huge fan of Dorothy Koomson and am really looking forward to reading this one - what a great review you gave it.

  5. Just finished this remarkable book. Completely gripping, but heartbreaking also! An excellent insight into an extremely horrfic realisation of how hard life can become when faced with such hardship. Well done Dottie x