The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

The blurb…

You’ve never met the other wives.  None of you know each other, you see your husband only one day a week.  Thursday.  But you don’t care, you love him that much.  Or at least that’s what you’ve told yourself…

And then, one day it all changes.

You thought you were fine with this, with only having a fraction of a husband.  But you can’t help yourself, you start to dig.  You begin tracking them down, the other days…who is Monday and why does she have bruises on her arms? Is she being abused? By who? Her husband? Your husband?

What else is he keeping from you? And who is he, really?

My review…

⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Well, I love a good thriller and this certainly was a rollercoaster ride of a book!  

This gripping story is told by Thursday Ellington, and is set in damp and grey Seattle, which sets the whole tone of the book.  Thursday is the second wife to handsome and charming polygamist Seth whom she gets to spend every Thursday with.  The other wives are described as Monday and Tuesday.  Thursday paints a picture of her lonely existence waiting for her day of the week with Seth, as she puts all her efforts into being the sexiest and most uncomplicated wife that Seth could ever want.  However, underneath the facade that she creates for Seth, she is plagued by insecurities comparing herself to the other wives and also suffering terribly after a devastating miscarriage.  As Thursday spins a web of deceit and starts digging into the lives of the other wives, everything starts to unravel and all their lives will be deeply affected.  

With themes of secrecy, infidelity, lust, miscarriage and mental illness this book is a superb thriller with so many brilliant twists and turns that I didn’t know who or what to believe right up until the shockingly brutal end (which for me went just a tiny step too far).  I thought that the writing was fantastic and edgy and the characters were so well drawn as seen from Thursday’s perspective.

I could say so much more about Thursday and the events which take place but there would be so many spoilers that I just can’t! I would highly recommend this book to fans of suspense/thrillers and I will definitely be reading more of Tarryn Fisher’s work. I would also like to say thank you to Netgalley and HQ Stories for the ARC.

About the author…

Tarryn Fisher is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of nine novels.  Born a sun hater, she currently makes her home in Seattle, Washington, with her children, husband and psychotic husky.  She loves connecting with her readers on Instagram.  

The Women at Hitler’s Table

The blurb…

East Prussia, 1943. Hitler hides away in the Wolfsschanze – his hidden headquarters. The tide is turning in the war and his enemies circle ever closer. Ten women are chosen. Ten women to taste his food and protect him from poison.

Twenty-six-year-old Rosa has lost everything to this war. Alone and scared, she faces the SS with nothing but the knowledge every bite might be her last.

Caught on the wrong side of history, how far is Rosa willing to go to survive.

Published by Harper Collins Publishers

My review…

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

I thoroughly enjoyed this powerful story set in East Prussia 1943.  Inspired by a true story it tells the incredible tale of Rosa, who is selected as one of ten women to taste Hitler’s food to protect him from poisoning towards the end of the war.

This is a compelling story of love, lust, friendship and the hardship of life in wartime Nazi Germany told in intelligent and cool writing style, reflecting the atmosphere of the time.  Rosa is an intriguing character, she is caring, loyal and introspective and the author gives vivid descriptions of Rosa’s thought processes and reflections.  

The book gives a fascinating insight into Hitler’s personality and idiosyncrasies.  It was also interesting for me to read a book set in World War II from a German perspective (as opposed to British or Polish) with the women’s opinions of Hitler and how little they knew of Hitler’s atrocities during that time.

Most of all I loved reading how the relationships between the women developed into friendships that would have a lasting effect on Rosa. 

I would have liked more emotion in this story but it’s definitely a thought provoking read that I would highly recommend to fans of historical fiction.

It was fascinating to read the author’s notes and acknowledgments to see that she got her inspiration for this story in 2014 from an article about Margot Wolk, Hitler’s last surviving food taster. Unfortunately by the time Postorino had tracked Margot down she had sadly passed away and so she never got to talk to her. You can just imagine the stories she had to tell!

About the author…

Rosella Postorino is an internationally bestselling author and an editor. She speaks fluent English, Italian, French and German. The Women at Hitler’s table is her first novel to be translated into English.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

The blurb…

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, but the similarities end there. In school, Connell is popular and well-liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation – awkward but electrifying – something life-changing begins.

Normal People is a story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find they can’t.

Published by Faber & Faber

My review…

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

This book follows Marianne and Connell’s relationship on their journey from adolescence to adulthood in a story of love, abuse, mental health and social class.

Rooney writes with effortless style and the dialogue so well written that I barely noticed the quirky lack of speech marks. This makes the book a page turner despite the melancholy tone and lack of any major plot twists.

I found myself fully invested in these vulnerable characters. Especially Marianne who, due to various dysfunctional relationships, sees her self worth deteriorate terribly throughout the story and my heart aches for her and the abuse she tolerated.

I have seen many reviews saying that they are disappointed with the lack of a ‘happy ending’ but I didn’t expect one. It was never really on the cards with this story and the characters are still so young at the end I’m glad they didn’t ride off into the sunset together. What was lovely was that they helped heal each other and grow as individuals and I especially liked the line ‘But for her the pain of loneliness will be nothing to the pain that she used to feel, of being unworthy. He bought her goodness like a gift and now it belongs to her.’  That was my happy ending for Marianne, at that point in her life.

There was some repetition to the storyline and some instances of annoying self analysis but this didn’t put me off. I really enjoyed this book from an exceptionally talented writer and I would highly recommend it to anyone!

About the author…

Sally Rooney was born in County Mayo, Ireland, and presently lives in Dublin. She is the author of the novels Conversations with Friends and Normal People. Her writing has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the London Review of Books, and elsewhere. Conversations with Friends was shortlisted for both the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Rathbones Folio Prize, and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. Rooney was also shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for ‘Mr Salary’ and was the winner of the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award. Normal People won the Costa Novel of the Year in 2019, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018 as well as the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Rathbones Folio Prize in 2019.

Normal People has also been adapted for a television series by the BBC to rave reviews.

The Safe Place by Anna Downes

The blurb…

No phones

No outsiders

No escape

Emily Proudman has been offered the chance of a lifetime – leave her messy London life, move to a beautiful estate in France and help her boss’s wife take care of their daughter. It seems like the perfect opportunity to start again.

But once there, Emily soon starts to suspect that her charismatic new employers aren’t telling her the whole truth. That there are even dangerous secrets hidden beneath the glamorous facade.

Why have the family been moved to this isolated house so far from home? Why does her boss’s daughter refuse to speak or be touched? Why are there whispers in the night?

The only problem is, the more Emily knows, the less chance there is she will ever be able to leave…

My review…

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Doesn’t the sparkling blue swimming pool on the cover of the book just draw you in! I thoroughly enjoyed this brilliantly written, eerie, page turner. After having read the blurb, just the thought of being stuck somewhere with no phone is enough to make most people feel vulnerable!

With themes of loss, grief and mental health, the story is told from the points of view of the two main characters Emily and Scott, in alternating chapters, with flashbacks from Nina. Emily’s life is crumbling down around her but she is saved by her knight in shining armour, Scott, with the job opportunity of a lifetime. Emily heads off to France to help Scott’s wife Nina, and their daughter Aurelia, as a live-in housekeeper/personal assistant. Emily is in awe of the property as well as the owners, but struggles to connect with Aurelia whose behaviour is troubling. The characters are all so well developed I felt sympathy and empathy with all of them, even when they were in the wrong. I particularly liked Emily, she was such a relatable character and some of her internal dialogue was very witty.

The descriptions of the house and grounds on the coast of France were beautiful and created such an atmosphere that I almost felt I was sitting at the side of the pool in the sun sipping a chilled glass of Rose (or definitely wished I was!). There were two houses on the estate, Emily lived in the guest house and Nina, Scott and their daughter Aurelia lived in the main house where Emily was not allowed under any circumstances. The descriptions of the coldness of Nina’s house were so vivid that you could feel the chill and I found I was actually holding my breath in several places waiting for something dreadful to happen.

I was well over halfway through this book and I still didn’t know where the story was going and what Scott and Nina were hiding, it definitely keeps you guessing right up until the heartbreaking ending. When you do finally realise what is going on with the family, it will definitely remind you of something but I won’t give anything away!

I would highly recommend this book to fans of suspense novels, and I look forward to reading more of Anna’s work in the future. I also really enjoyed reading the author’s note at the end of the book. It’s so interesting to get to know the author and the inspiration behind the writing.

I would also like to say thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for the ARC.

About the author…

Anna Downes grew up in Sheffield, UK. She studied drama at Manchester University before winning a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and moving to London to pursue an acting career. In 2009 she left to go travelling and spent time in France, Egypt and Central America before finally settling in Australia in 2011. Anna became a dual citizen in 2016 and now lives just north of Sydney with her husband and two children. The Safe Place is her first novel and is partly inspired by her experiences working as a live-in housekeeper / caretaker on the French coast during her travels.