Top positive review
9 of 9 people found this helpful
A first-rate read!
on 5 September 2011
The First Wife is an interesting novel. Like Barr's previous novels, there's an edge of suspense to it. An edge that it isn't all as it seems and there's a certain aura to the novel where you wonder when the bottom is going to drop out and it's all going to go bonkers, it's all going to implode. I thought the initial plot was excellent. I was entranced by Lily Button, entranced that this young girl didn't know life, that her life revolved around her grandparents until they died and she was suddenly thrust into the world. I found Lily's naivete charming, rather than annoying, and I liked seeing how Lily became somewhat smitten with Harry Summers and how their relationship evolved once his wife, Sarah, killed herself in Barcelona.
I admit, I did find the suspense lacking a bit. Don't get me wrong, it was there, and like I said, I was waiting for it all to drop, but it was miles more sedate than The Sisterhood. The synopsis makes a big mention of a `shocking discovery' about Harry's wife Sarah but the action of the novel is relegated to those final 50/75 pages. Up until then, it's a fairly pedestrian novel. Very readable, but not what I expect from an Emily Barr novel. I still enjoyed it, mind, because Lily's story and how she goes from a practical hermit to being out in the world and making her own money is indeed very interesting. I liked the house where she lodged, I thought the family was lovely, and I liked her friendship with Al, and her burgeoning relationship with the Summer's. I also liked the story about Jack, a New Zealander fed up with his life and wanting to break free and visit Europe. It was all done very well, it just didn't make my heart race as much as The Perfect Lie did.
I must admit, I did find the latter stages of the book to be beyond the realms of believability. Lily takes off to Barcelona and I just felt that from what we knew of her thus far, it wouldn't be in her make-up to do that. I found it hard to believe that Lily would survive the bustle of an airport and the flight to Barcelona and the enormity of being in a city where people speak a different language. It might have been necessary to the plot, but it was entirely out of characters for me and it sort of spoiled it a little bit. You don't give us a character who in all of her 21 years has only ever left Cornwall a couple of times and then have her, on a whim (suspicious, or no) head to Barcelona. Nevertheless, the ending was very fast-paced and frantic and everything all sort of spilled out in one long shocking confession. I'd rather guessed most of it, I will admit, about Sarah, about Harry so it was rather anti-climatic in a sense, but still dramatic in others. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The First Wife. I don't personally believe it was as good as The Sisterhood, but it was good enough and I struggled to put it down!