The English Wife
ARC received from the distributor in exchange for an honest review.
From the New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous New York Gilded Age novel full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.
Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?
I finished this book a while ago but have been busy and exhausted. I’m currently planning my wedding and that, on top of having the winter blues as well as very low Vitamin B-12 levels which have messed with my memory as of late, delayed this post for quite some time. My apologies to Raincoast Books, who sent me this book for my honest review but have had to wait forever for it!
I really loved this book. It mixed my two favourite genres–historical fiction and psychological suspense/thriller–in a way that made the plot seem almost ghost-story-esque without quite reaching that level of scary. There were many twists and turns throughout the book and I was very pleased with the fact that I was unable to guess at the ending at all until it was revealed. Lauren Willig is an intelligent writer who knows how to keep a reader on their toes.
This book hurts the heart. It’s rare that a book touches me deeply enough that my heart aches along with a character’s so it’s always remarkable when it actually happens, and my heart hurt for Georgie during this story. (The back cover makes it seem as if Janie is the main character of the book, but she’s not; really, her plot is fairly unremarkable in the grand scheme of things and while I liked her, I could have taken or left her.)
Pros: This book is so mysterious that just when you think you’ve got the grasp of things, Willig feeds you a seed of doubt and you’re scrambling at the beginning again trying to reconnect the dots.
Cons: The ultimate reveal is…far-fetched? That’s the best way to describe it. Without giving anything away, the murder of Annabelle and Bayard is unexpected to say the least, but also made me go, “Really?” It’s both plausible and not at the same time–this might make more sense if you’ve read it. It wasn’t shocking like it was meant to be for me because I was trying to simultaneously wrap my head around the logistics, the randomness of it, etc. The second con is that while I loved the book and it was very interesting, it’s also very long and it took me a very long time to get through it. There wasn’t a ton driving me to stay up through all hours of the night to finish it.
Overall this book is a great for historical fiction or mystery fans, but not so great for fans of psychological suspense because the ultimate reveal is a bit unbelievable.