Lucy is at the supermarket buying dinner when she gets a mysterious text from her husband Tom. “I need to go away. Please don’t try to get in touch. I can’t explain right now.” Lucy, predictably, dumps the shopping, rushes home to find Tom is not there (and he didn’t even clear the table before he left,) and immediately embarks on the slightly unhinged behaviour of a woman who thinks her husband is having an affair.
OK, you think, so far, so predictable. Ah, but there the story departs and goes elsewhere. And it’s an interesting journey – taking in parenthood, miscarriage, grief, mental instability, what constitutes a family, twins, and more.
This is Edghill’s second novel, following her debut A Thousand Tiny Disappointments, and is equally as interested in family dynamics as her first book. This is much more insular than her first, with practically all the characters related in some way, a tiny number of people causing huge drama for each other, with only a few outsiders allowed into the narrative. It’s an effective way of establishing traits and relationships right off the bat.
There are some great characters in here too. While I thought Lucy needed a good slap to get her to stop being so judgemental all the time, she did improve on me as she developed towards the other characters, especially her sister-in-law Stella. And I loved Lucy’s mother Margaret, clearly where Lucy inherited her judgemental traits from (though I doubt she’d thank me for saying so) and the way Margaret communicated both with Lucy and with Margaret’s long suffering husband Geoffrey.
What is also great about the characterisation is that there are no good guys or bad guys, everyone is human, makes mistakes and says silly things sometimes. As we do. It’s a nicely nuanced portrait and all the better for being able to show depth.
Regular readers of this blog will know how much I love a book driven by characters and not by plot and this is very much a success in those terms. These are people doing what they feel they have to. The other great thing about it is where she leaves the story. It ends at just the right place for me and you do have a few lingering questions but you’re going to have to work them out for yourself – there’s enough for you to work out what is feasible.
If you’re a fan of family-based, female-led dramas, I’d absolutely recommend this. It’s an intelligent, absorbing read and a really strong follow up!
His Other Woman is published on 19 May 2022 by Bloodhound Books. My thanks to Sarah Edghill for sending me an advance copy to review.