The quandary. Do you call a book a thriller if that’s its genre but there was no tension? 🤔
The Younger Wife
April 5, 2022
St. Martin’s Press
A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.
Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.
THE FORMER WIFE
With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the
truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.
THE YOUNGER WIFE
Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses
in all of them?
The beginning of Sally Hepworth’s The Younger Wife opens with a anonymous narrator at a wedding when outside her field of vision, someone screams. What’s happened and to whom? A great way to start a suspense novel.
However, soon the reader is embedded in a domestic fiction novel about two sisters who are introduced to their soon-to-be stepmother who is a few year’s younger than them. The older sister, Tully, lives the life of luxury but is a kleptomaniac and has been since her early teens. Her younger sister, Rachel, is a successful baker who suffered trauma at 16 and eats her anxieties. Heather, the future stepmother, comes from a financially poor background in which her father murdered her mother. Stephen, the father, is a successful heart surgeon who is seemingly loved by everyone. Pam is his soon-to-be ex-wife who suffers from Alzheimers. The anonymous narrator is not revealed until many chapters into the novel.
The story is told through multiple narrators: Rachel, Tully, Heather, and anonymous who we do learn the identity of later.
Despite the fact that Sally Hepworth is a good writer, The Younger Wife almost bored me into a catatonic state. If it weren’t for the scenes with the wonderful punster Darcy, who is Rachel’s new delivery man, and Rachel, who is probably the most down-to-earth of the characters, I may have tossed The Younger Wife in the DNF pile. Slow-burn should only be applied to romance novels, not thrillers in which tension should be constantly rising.
Instead, the reader is shown how gaslighting works and how self-doubting women succumb. However, I’d go even further and suggest that it’s not just self-doubt but some brand of dimwittedness, especially in Tully’s case. I’m not sure why Hepworth chose to write Tully as being as unaware as she is but it ultimately makes her character seem mentally deficient. There are some instances in which I’m not sure whether the reader is supposed to believe that the narrator, Heather, mainly, is unreliable or if she is being manipulated. Whichever it was supposed to be, it left a taste of confusion rather than tension. I can’t say that I’m thrilled by the way Hepworth portrayed these women–gullible and unaware.
I expected the ending to feel right, just, but frankly it rambled and still left things up in the air. I don’t think that’s a spoiler. The ending stunk.
Ultimately The Younger Wife needed far more tension and a clearer sense that the author actually understood what she was hoping to achieve or what she wanted her readers to believe. I read the last chapter and felt like there was still a lot of shrugging going on, which is definitely not the way to end a thriller.
I didn’t read any reviews before writing my own, but I did note the number of stars being bandied about. They are far more than I would give. So we’re at a Your Mileage May Vary kind of book review. If Darcy and Rachel hadn’t been so lovely, I would have probably rated the book lower.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.