Nov 19, 2019

The Weeknight Book Club: 'The Wife and the Widow' - Christian White.

The Weeknight Book Club has returned!  I've missed writing book reviews and it's serendipitous that I've also just finished a book I just had to discuss here on the blog... 

I've been particularly discerning about how I spend my free time recently.  Only the most vibrant sunrises were considered and only the most heavily steeped mugs of tea have been sipped because I've been lost in the world of Christian White's especially addictive crime fiction writing.
'The Widow and the Wife' is screenwriter White's second novel and is a standalone work from 'The Nowhere Child' which won the Victorian Premier's Literary Award in 2017.

We meet Kate (the widow) first in the novel.  She's waiting at Melbourne airport with her preteen daughter Mia for her husband John to return from a trip to London for a medical conference.  Due to the wonder of Skype - Kate, Mia and John were able to stay in touch for the fortnight he was away and while technology does keep us close, nothing beats seeing your loved ones in person.

Except John never got off the plane.  He never even boarded the flight.  A palliative care physician, he was dismissed from his position a few weeks back and his employer had no record of his registration at the conference.  

It turns out that John had spent what were to be his final weeks at the family holiday home in Belport, a fictitious island off the coast of Victoria.  A sixth sense made Kate and her father in law Fisher drive to Belport to try and find John.  They discovered evidence that John had been staying at the house and in the corner of one room was a 'set' designed to look like a hotel room from casting central where John had been 'skyping from London'.  Soon after these discoveries, John is found dead in a car that was driven into the water.

If all of that isn't enough to make you want to keep reading, never fear because we've yet to meet the wife of our novel, Abby!  One of the many skills White brings to this genre is his ability to get us interested (and suspicious) about each new character that's introduced only to leave us wondering whether we're purposely being mislead (maybe, maybe not).

Abby works the checkout of the local supermarket and is a taxidermist in her spare time.  Life is tough as she and her husband Ray struggle to make ends meet, especially in the offseason in the tourist dependent town of Belport.  Taxidermy, crime fiction and chats with her best friend who is a police officer are key components of Abby's 'me time'.

The husbands of the novel, while secondary characters are just as complex and richly drawn as their wives.  For most of his adult life, John has been plagued by night terrors and insomnia.  He has had a lifelong fear of moths and the evil forces of his nightmares can be found in the men who hide in the shadows of his mind.  Ray, similarly, has darkness in his life.  'The rage' has overcome him at different stages of his life.  His life now is full of the worries and disappointment of being middle-aged on a remote island.  Has the rage been smothered by the responsibilities of his life or does it still burn, making him capable of murder?

'The Wife and the Widow' shifts between the stories of Kate and Abby in real-time as the aftermath of John's death messily spills into their seemingly disparate worlds.  There is also the shift in time between the present and the past as a previous murder in the area is weaved into the increasingly wider net of people with secrets they need to keep hidden at all costs....

To write anymore would see me give too much away.  I've said enough, I hope, to encourage you to add 'The Widow and the Wife' to your summer reading list.

And on that note, I will leave you as I head to school pick ahead of an exciting afternoon of craft.  Our mission today is to recreate a blue swimmer crab with mixed media purchased from Kmart just this morning.

Wish us luck and I'll let you know how it goes.

Be well and I wish you luck on the library waiting list if you're on it for 'The Wife and the Widow'!

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