Top positive review
Mature, realistic and unexpectedly profound women’s fiction written with honesty, wit & warmth.
11 December 2018
Despite not having been particularly impressed by the only previous novel that I have read by Amanda Prowse, the premise for The Girl in the Corner was so relatable with a mature female protagonist forced to reassess her life, marriage and friendships after the revelation of her husband’s betrayal, that I opted to voluntarily read. I am glad that I approached the novel with an open mind, however, as The Girl in the Corner was all of the things that I felt were missing from that previous book - compelling, thought-provoking, life-affirming and a solidly engaging read!
At just sixteen-years-old, Rae-Valentine (“Rae”) Pritchard was one of life’s observers, preferring to keep her thoughts to herself and hide in the crowd. Meeting gregarious Dolly Latimer at typing college, she was soon swept up into a firm friendship with the bubbly whirlwind and a heady first romance and marriage to Dolly’s brother; self-confident and acquisitive businessman, Howard. Propelled from her cautious life in a modest suburb to a place in the Latimer clan’s flourishing restaurant empire and a Georgian house in North London, Rae is now a devoted wife and mother to sixteen-year-old, Hannah, and eighteen-year-old, George. On the eve of their silver wedding anniversary, Howard’s confession to a shocking betrayal of their marital vows shakes the foundations of Rae’s life. A devastated Rae is sent reeling and forced to consider her position as wife, mother and all round skivvy to the Latimer restaurant chain, as well as her role as Dolly’s best-friend. As Rae licks her wounds, retreats from family life and avoids Dolly, it gives her the opportunity to remember all those teenage dreams that she gave up on so easily once love and marriage entered her life, from island-hopping in Greece to training as a chef. But, is it too late for Rae to change her destiny and live life for herself, and can she find the courage to stop being thought of as a pushover whose opinions never quite matter enough? Defined by her relationships with everyone else, could it be time for the real Rae-Valentine to please stand up?
The planned anniversary celebration of two weeks in Antigua sees Rae taking Dolly instead of Howard and hoping for some much needed thinking time, however her best-friend’s split loyalties and a flirtatious barman are just the start of matters becoming trickier. As Rae is pressured to ease her husband’s conscience and play happy families by Dolly, she starts to feel like the outsider threatening to rock the extended Latimer family. Suddenly Howard’s mistake is made to feel of less importance and Rae is cast as the bad guy. Not quite happy to play along and swallow her pride, Rae ponders on the possibility of reconnecting with her husband and in turn recalibrating her whole friendship with brassy Dolly. Can shy, retiring Rae-Valentine find the strength to stand up and be counted and where does Rae’s friendship with Dolly end and her relationship with Howard begin? Can there ever be a possibility of the two being distinct and just what happens when one sours? The path to reconciliation might not be as easy as Howard, Dolly and the Latimer’s all think...
Amanda Prowse’s down to earth and conversational style of writing captures Rae’s predicament and emotional upheaval perfectly and her accessible prose makes the journey involving and interesting. Alongside Rae’s marital predicament and her place in the vibrant Latimer family, Prowse examines secondary issues such as how Rae’s parents and sister feel like the humble relations forced to forever play second fiddle. This is best exemplified by Debbie-Jo’s sniping and the risk-averse nature of her routine-oriented parents. Whilst Howard and Rae have faced challenges of their own, from a painful miscarriage to George’s autism and Hannah’s anger and friendship issues, these previous issues have never been openly discussed. Howard’s betrayal is the final straw that opens the floodgates to the belated years of unspoken emotions and pent-up feelings. It forces Rae to re-examine her whole life and, in turn, her complex emotions of being second best in the Pritchard family order, to finally emerge from the shadows and live the life she has always dreamed of. I particularly appreciated Rae’s considered thought processes and deliberation befitting a woman in her fifties, in contrast to the headstrong impetuosity often seen in chick-lit fare.
Perceptive, thought-provoking and emotive, The Girl in the Corner is a compelling piece of women’s fiction with well-realised and brilliantly human characters and primarily about a mature woman finding the courage and strength to take control of her destiny and put herself first. Well-paced from the off and quick to get into the heart of the story with dialogue that rings true, the novel has depth, humour and honesty. I was slightly disappointed by what I felt was a rushed conclusion with the impressive groundwork of the previous ninety percent of the novel given a rather trite summing up, but I was also pleasantly surprised at how tense and unpredictable I found the whole story. I would welcome the opportunity to see Rae-Valentine in a future novel and to catch up with her path to true fulfilment. Changing the names (Rae-Valentine and Debbie-Jo), and toning done brash and occasionally annoying Dolly’s larger than life persona would certainly help a repeat visit slip down a treat!
Mature, involving and unexpectedly profound women’s fiction and in contrast to my previous experience of Amanda Prowse’s work, a powerful and realistic novel with moments of wit and feel-good spirit. I would certainly recommend this novel for a thought-provoking read which just goes to show, it is never too late to realise our dreams or find our true path in life. When push comes to shove, is it easier to cling to safety and security and perhaps live to regret, or leap and take a chance?