Thursday, 27 October 2011

The First Wife is in part like Emily Barr's previous novels, there's an edge of suspense to it. An edge that it isn't all as it seems and there's a certain aura to the novel where you wonder when the bottom is going to drop out and it's all going to go bonkers, it's all going to implode. I thought the initial plot was excellent although it made me think of the Dorothy Koomson’s, ’The Woman He Loved Before.’  I was entranced by Lily Button, a young girl, whose life revolved around her grandparents until they died and she was suddenly  thrust into the world. I found Lily's naïveté charming, rather than annoying, but what I did find annoying, was how she was smitten with Harry Summers and how their relationship raced along, I wanted to say. ’Watch out he isn’t what he seems to be.’  It was so predictable you knew something was wrong, especially as his wife was supposed to have committed suicide in Spain when they were there for Christmas on Christmas day!  I must admit, I did find the suspense lacking.

Don't get me wrong, it was there, and like I said, I was waiting for it all to drop, but it was miles more sedate than ‘The Sisterhood.’ The synopsis makes a big mention of a `shocking discovery' about Harry's wife Sarah, but the action of the novel is relegated to those final 50/75 pages. Up until then, it's a fairly pedestrian novel. Very readable, but not what I expect from an Emily Barr novel. I still enjoyed it, mind, because Lily's story and how she goes from a practical hermit to being out in the world and making her own money is indeed very interesting, but not really believable.  I liked the house where she lodged, I thought the family was lovely, and I liked her friendship with Al, and her burgeoning relationship with the family. I also liked the story about Jack, a New Zealander fed up with his life and wanting to break free and visit Europe. It was all done very well, it just didn't make my heart race as much as some of her other novels.

I must admit, I did find the latter stages of the book to be beyond the realms of believability. Lily takes off to Barcelona and I just felt that from what we knew of her thus far, it wouldn't be in her make-up to do that. I found it hard to believe that Lily would survive the bustle of an airport and the flight to Barcelona and the enormity of being in a city where people speak a different language. It might have been necessary to the plot, but it was entirely out of characters for me and it sort of spoiled it a little bit. You don't give us a character who in all of her 21 years has only ever left Cornwall a couple of times and then have her, on a whim (suspicious, or no) head to Barcelona. Especially as she found Sarah in a place she had never been to before. Nevertheless, the ending was very fast-paced and frantic and everything all sort of spilled out in one long shocking confession. It was all rather predictable, so it was rather anti-climatic in a sense, but still dramatic in others. Overall, although I  enjoyed The First Wife, I don't personally believe it was as good as any of her other books and was like a not very good chick lit book. Some of the speech from the characters was facile and irritated me.

What irked me even more, that having promised myself I wouldn’t buy any new books this Autumn, ( I had 16 books at home to read) I saw and bought this (as she was one of my favourite authors) and at full price from W. H. Smiths!