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Early review: The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

The Silent Wife tpb.indd

The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison.
Published: June 25. Headline.

★★★★☆.

A.S.A. Harrison’s The Silent Wife is an engaging foray into the complexities of the human psyche – a psychological exploration of one couple’s long-lasting relationship that now threatens to break apart in spectacular fashion. The familiarity and routine that has for so long has held the good ship of life in a relatively study position, now suddenly threatens to collapse and dash everything against the rocks.

Jodi and Todd are living a life of comfort and relative luxury. With a beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, furnished with everything they could ever need, they have settled into a routine way of living that seems to work for both of them. With solid jobs – her working part-time as a psychiatrist who works from home and him as a building investor that makes enough money to comfortably get by – it soon becomes clear that the only thing that is turbulent about their lives is undoubtedly their marriage. He is a serial adulterer, she a hopelessly naïve individual who is in constant denial. Each exists in their own private world, and the discussions over wine and dutifully-cooked dinner essentially avoid the problems that they – each in their own way – pretend do not exist.

Disclaimer: if you want characters that are decidedly wonderful and who you would probably go out for drinks with, this may not be the novel for you. Harrison’s characters for the most part have awful personalities, are essentially flawed. Todd fancies himself as the ultimate playboy – a bit of a stud that roves his eyes over a multitude of girls, objectifying them at will, his self-confidence and conceit evidently knowing no bounds. He is selfish, ignorant, and a compulsive liar. He never considers himself to be in the wrong, even in the most outrageous of situations – even when he goes so far that even he cannot talk his way out of trouble. It is unsurprising, then, that Todd, by his very nature, struggles to elicit any sympathy from the reader.

It would seem logical to make the assumption that Jodi – someone who has to deal with a character as ridiculous and as obnoxious as Todd – would be easier to invest in for the reader. However, for the most part it is a struggle to feel nothing but contempt for someone who seems to have zero objections to it all, content in the apparent safety of her home and general situation. Even as she works with a variety of different clients, talking to them, helping them resolve their problems, she displaces her own – both in the present and from the past. Even when given solid evidence that everything is not quite as secure as it seems, she is still incredibly reluctant to create a fuss. Only when things get to their most extreme and she is driven as far as she can take, does she decide to take matters into her own hands.

Harrison’s cast of supporting characters are not overwhelmingly strong, but they offer a nice balance. A lawyer that Todd has known for as long as he can remember – bitter because of the string of divorces he has behind him; a receptionist that is forever drinking all the expensive coffee, and who can successfully unnerve the normally unflappable Todd. Throw in your pregnant girlfriend’s father and you have a character-list that bubbles away menacingly, threatening to boil over at any moment.

The author deftly manages to cleverly intertwine the past and present in a narrative that will have you on tenterhooks as you eagerly flip the pages in anticipation. Sadly, A.S.A. Harrison cruelly passed from the world before she had chance to see The Silent Wife go to publication, but she was rightfully proud of what she created. A deliciously entertaining roller-coaster of a novel, jam-packed with love, betrayal, death, this is a novel that deserves every bit of the attention that it will undoubtedly receive.

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The Life by Martina Cole

Title:  The LifeImage
Author:  Martina Cole
ISBN: 978-0755375578
Publisher:  Headline

First Published:  September 2012 (Hardback)
No .of pages:  512

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
The most authentic novel of gangster family life ever written, from the No. 1 bestselling author.
The Bailey brothers are gangsters determined to make their mark in the world. Peter and Daniel are chalk and cheese in many ways – Peter’s calm exterior belies his ruthless nature, while Daniel’s penchant for spectacular violence is legendary – but together they are unstoppable. From the late seventies they rule London’s East End and, when their sons join the business, it seems that no one can touch the powerful Baileys. Although it’s never easy at the top; there is always someone waiting to take you down – sometimes even those closest to you… Lena Bailey is determined to shield her youngest child Tania from the Life. But when a terrible tragedy occurs, Tania’s eyes are opened to their world in a way that forces her to make an irrevocable choice that will determine her future.
Martina Cole’s gritty and gripping new novel is an unflinching portrait of a family torn apart by violence and betrayal, but ultimately bound by loyalty, by blood, and by a burning desire for revenge… It is a story of the Life, told as only Martina Cole can.

Review:
Martina Cole never fails to disappoint me with her books.  I love her tales of the criminal underbelly and the way she brings generation after generation of families to life.  You really get invested in them.  These books are not to everyone’s taste as they can be quite graphic and violent but I find that this is balanced out completely in the way Cole creates her characters and sets the scene.

The Life has a very dominant and sinister undertone running through it due to the character of Daniel.  His unpredictable bouts of violence are a constant threat through the story and you never know quite when he is going to lose his cool or what the consequences would be for his family.  On the flip side is Peter, the calm and calculating side of the family.  He spends a lot of his time running around fixing the trouble his brother has caused whilst trying to keep their family businesses running.

We follow both Daniel and Peter through their life, along with their wives, their children and the ever increasing family that they belong too.  We grow with them; We love with them; We hate with them.  But as things come to a head, with tragic consequences, we learn that blood will always be thicker than water.

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