Summer reads – The Silent Wife

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Thursday 22nd August 2013

The Silent Wife HeadlineStaff at Waterstones were definitely on to something when they started putting cards on bestsellers saying “if you liked this book, you’ll love this one…” The chances are, for instance, that if you love Kate Atkinson’s brilliant Jackson Brodie crime novels (I’m completely addicted) then you might enjoy books by Sophie Hannah or Mark Billingham.

So, in the same vein, I can confidently predict that if you enjoyed Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, then you’ll whizz through The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison. Actually, Harrison’s novel is even better. The characterisation is pitch perfect, the writing elegant and the plot gripping.

The blurb describes the book as “a chilling portrayal of two people in turmoil,” but the storyline is more subtle and finely judged than that. Todd Gilbert and Jodi Brett are both in their 40s and have been together for more than 20 years. They have a comfortable Chicago lifestyle, a stunning lakeside flat and successful careers. Psychotherapist Jodi knows that Todd is a “cheater” but puts up with it as long as “a surface calm prevails” and their lives can continue as normal. But when that calm is shattered by Todd’s affair with his best friend’s daughter, Jodi has to confront the truth at last. And that’s when she discovers exactly what she is capable of.

The most impressive thing about The Silent Wife is the way ASA Harrison builds the two main characters, layering detail and background with infinite skill. Todd and Jodi are both damaged and difficult but you find yourself rooting for each of them in turn. One moment I was appalled by Todd’s selfishness, the next I was stunned by Jodi’s cool-headed response to his latest betrayal.

The Silent Wife was ASA Harrison’s debut novel (she wrote four non-fiction books) but sadly it is her only work of fiction. The Toronto writer died at the age of 65 in April 2013 while working on a new psychological thriller.

The Silent Wife by ASA Harrison (Headline, £12.99)

2 comments so far

  • I agree, far better than Gone Girl. Better characterisation and more plausible – I could actually imagine this happening! My sympathies came down in favour of Todd by the end (though saying why might be a spoiler)

Leave a Reply