Top positive review
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The House of Secrets
on 20 July 2016
Waters applies her superior skills as a period writer to great effect once again in this romance thriller. Set in 1920s postwar Britain, Frances Wray, at 26, is a confirmed spinster of the middle class, managing her reduced circumstances with her widowed mother, having also lost two brothers in the war. She rents out part of the house to a young clerk class couple, the Barbers, in a bid to keep her and her mother's finances afloat.
Waters gets the setting, mood, speech and social concerns, all down pat, and it is with a start when one remembers that this novel was published as recently as 2014. This is clearly a woman's novel, and I mean that in no disparaging sense, because the main focus is on the two women. The friendship between Frances and Lilian Barber soon blossoms into something a lot more intimate, even as she gets more involved in the Barber's lives, while having an ambivalent relationship with Lenny, Lilian's husband.
It is to Waters's credit that her nuanced writing makes the transition between romance to thriller midway through the novel, while surprising, nonetheless smooth and completely believable. However, the psychological suspense that surrounds Lilian and Frances does get a little repetitive and long drawn, even though it was a good way of getting under the skin of her two female leads.
Not a perfect novel, but the exemplary prose sets it apart from the rest of pack.