This book wasn’t at all what I expected. Given the title I was expecting some first wife vs second wife battle rife with petty jealousy and sneaky sabotage.
Had I been the sort of person to check the backcover blurb before reading I would have had a better idea what was coming, but I tend to dive straight in when I choose my nightly reading fodder, so I was pleasantly surprised (as am a bit over bitchy wives’ tales).
The Second Wife
by Rebecca Fleet
Published by Doubleday
Genres: Psychological Thriller
When Alex met Natalie she changed his life. After the tragic death of his first wife, which left him a single parent to teenage daughter Jade, he’s determined to build a happy family.
But his new-found happiness is shattered when the family home is gutted by fire and his loyalties are unexpectedly tested. Jade insists she saw a man in the house on the night of the fire; Natalie denies any knowledge of such an intruder.
Alex is faced with an impossible choice: to believe his wife or his daughter? And as Natalie’s story unravels, Alex realises that his wife has a past he had no idea about, a past that might yet catch up with her.
As it happened, I really liked Natalie a lot more than I liked Alex. I could understand his initial concern for his daughter but he seemed sure Natalie should have done more to find and rescue Jade from the burning house before saving herself. And then, when Jade mentions seeing the man, Alex (though he admits he has no reason to doubt his wife) assumes she’s having an affair and becomes increasingly suspicious.
Warning bells were ringing for me as his language suggests he’s been there before and we wonder if it was his first wife, or perhaps Alex himself, who has previously been unfaithful.
Indeed he did little to endear himself to me as time went on.
Natalie on the other hand is immediately sympathetic. And Alex’s prying means she’s forced to admit to a secret past she’s sure she’s left behind her. We learn of two sisters, one destructive and the other trying to save her younger sibling from herself… but seemingly unable to do so.
Despite my antipathy toward Alex I was far more engaged in the unfolding plot than I expected. Fleet alternates narrators – both Natalie and Alex in the present and the two sisters (Rachel and Sadie) two decades earlier. There’s a sense of menace in the events of 1999 which take place over a short but pivotal time in the sisters’ lives. And of course we’re in a sort of abeyance as Fleet ekes out their story, wondering what becomes of the wayward sister (19 yr old Sadie) who’s very obviously making bad choices.
I liked the direction Fleet ultimately takes us which is a bit of a surprise. That, combined with slick prose and pacing makes this an enjoyable read.
The Second Wife by Rebecca Fleet was published by Doubleday (Penguin Random House UK) and is now available.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.