Friday book review – The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Friday 22nd August 2014

Lisa JewellThe first time I heard Lisa Jewell’s name was back in 1999. I was watching Late Review on BBC2 and the notoriously caustic critic Tom Paulin (one of my all-time heroes) described Jewell’s debut novel, Ralph’s Party, as “a breath of fresh air.”

Tom Paulin’s approval was good enough for me. I hotfooted it round to my local bookshop the next day and read Ralph’s Party from cover to cover.

As always, Tom Paulin was right. It was brilliant. I’ve been a fan of Jewell’s ever since and the moment I spotted her new novel in Waterstone’s I snapped it up like a shot.

The Third Wife is Jewell’s 11th book and like its predecessors, it’s poignant and wise, smart and original.

The story centres on Adrian, a 47-year-old architect and serial husband. When Maya, the third wife of the book’s title, mysteriously walks into the path of a London bus in the middle of the night, no one can fathom what happened.

Adrian is pole-axed with grief and haunted by one question: was it a tragic accident or suicide? After all, Maya had everything – a blissfully happy marriage, a teaching job she loved and the generous acceptance of Adrian’s two ex-wives and five children.

But little by little Adrian starts to realise that Maya had secrets he didn’t know about – and enemies he’d never suspected in a million years.

Jewell’s latest book is a compelling read, the sort of book you can’t put down, even when you’ve got a pile of pressing deadlines. I was slightly puzzled as to why women found the needy, self obsessed Adrian so mesmeric but apart from that, The Third Wife is every bit as good as Ralph’s Party.

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell (Century, £12.99)

3 comments so far

  • Wow. I had never heard of Lisa Jewell before coming upon THE THIRD WIFE,
    her eleventh and latest novel. Stupendously good. Fascinating characters, a continuously dynamic plot focused on the psychological drama and mystery from within the eccentric but everyday life of a modern, “blended” (VERY “blended) family. I hadn’t consciously thought of what another person commenting said, but I agree that the main character’s almost universal appeal to women is not fully drawn although many of his other qualities are. A favorite genre of psychological mystery novel for me is represented well, to mention only two examples, by Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine ( the Inspector Wexford novels not included) and a series of same-character novels by Sophie Hannah. In these novels, although the characters are believable and could well (probably do) exist in our aociety, there is a central, inexplicably delightful creepiness to them. Jewell’s THE THIRD WIFE has the merest hint of the kind of creepiness I’m referring to. In contrast, the dramatic tension, so pleasing when done skillfully, as here, derives from situations and interactions which are familiar and raher “normal” in contemporary times. N.H. ERDMANN

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