Title: The Wife and the Widow
Author: Christian White
Published: September 24th 2019
Publisher: Affirm Press
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller
Rating: 4.5 stars
Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and the Widow is a mystery/thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside down when she’s forced to confront the evidence that her husband is a murderer. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives.
Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and the Widow takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love?
Fairfax has labelled Christian White, the author of last year’s smash hit, The Nowhere Child as, ‘an exciting new voice in crime fiction’. I have to concur, Christian White has earned this title, thanks to his first book, and now his second novel, The Wife and the Widow. A story that follows a wife, a widow and a shocking secret on a stormy island abode, Christian White’s sophomore novel is a book that will have you deeply examining the actions of your loved ones.
The fictional island township of Belport, located in the Bass Strait region off Victoria’s coast, plays the sinister backdrop for Christian White’s second and highly anticipated follow up to The Nowhere Child. The Wife and the Widow shifts and turns between two voices, the first follows Kate. The widow of the tale, Kate is consumed by her husband’s death. Kate’s journey for answers into her husband’s secret life, which is revealed after his passing, forms the crux of this novel. The other voice of this tale is Abby, a native to Belport. Abby is forced to confront the shocking reality that her husband may be capable of murder. As the story unfolds, truths are revealed, loyalties are tested, and secrets that have been buried for years come to the surface. The Wife and the Widow is a tale of confusion, but also semblance and renouncement.
Christian White burst onto the Australian and worldwide literary scene with his explosive debut novel, The Nowhere Child. I am sure the pressure to write a second novel of the same calibre was intense for White. Christian White takes it in his stride, and The Wife and the Widow is an assured and collected novel. It is book that demands to be absorbed in just a sitting. Personally, I sacrificed much needed sleep for this one, but it was so worth it!
Christian White embodies the voices of his two female narrators with confidence and understanding. I was impressed by his ability to inhabit the lives of both Kate, the widow of the tale, and Abby, the wife figure of this novel. I loved that I didn’t know what to expect from this tale, this is not a carefully laid out narrative. The Wife and the Widow is full of unexpected twists, turns, revelations and polarising truths. White’s approach is thoughtful, but also very astute. White also ensures that he is always one step ahead of the reader and we are often left disorientated. It was virtually impossible to pick the direction that this novel went in, and a flip in the narrative direction towards the latter part of the book caused quite a commotion!
One of the leading aspects of The Wife and the Widow is the setting. Belport, an imagined locale by the author, completely came alive thanks to the vivid prose of Christian White. There is such a strong visual quality to White’s descriptions, which he applies very well to his locale passages. Belport is a blustery island, that is both claustrophobic and isolated at the same time. It is eerie, dark and unforgiving, as many of the characters discover as The Wife and the Widow progresses. Everything is compounded by the influence of the setting, which seems to exacerbate the puzzling events of this tale.
White’s characterisation executed to perfection. He manages to divide his narration between the two women of the novel with poise and precision. Kate is absolutely determined to get to the bottom of her husband’s demise. I really felt for Kate and I often theorised what I would do if I was faced with the situation she was confronted with. It was easy to develop a sense of sympathy for Kate and I was behind her every step of the way. In Abby, the reader is confronted with a fighting spirit. Abby is a loyal and protective woman. She is also an unstoppable force and Abby’s character arc is marred by plenty of sacrifice and grief. The secondary cast is also carefully sketched by White, padding out the novel with plenty of intrigue and response.
White incorporates plenty of guiding themes in this novel and I appreciated the way in which these were inserted within the direction of the book. From marriage, relationships, family relations, sexual orientation, motherhood, parenting, career crisis, health care, terminal illness, bereavement, financial bequeaths, secrets and even a spot of taxidermy is thrown in the mix. There is no question that The Wife and the Widow provides a great deal for the reader to consider as they work their way through this scintillating novel.
There is absolutely no hint of second novel blues with The Wife and the Widow. Christian White’s second offering is cunning and dripping in deception, leaving you perplexed and even unhinged, but it is well worth it for this stand out thriller.
The Wife and the Widow by Christian White was published on 24th September 2019 by Affirm Press. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Wife and the Widow, Christian White, visit here.
*Book #10 of the 2019 Aussie male author challenge.