I hadn’t quite finished reading My Husband’s Wife when I saw Jane Corry at First Monday Crime last week. Jake Kerridge described it as ‘domestic noir’ which Jane agreed with. Personally, I’d add one more word to that and call it a ‘domestic noir saga’. The story spans two time periods with 15 years in between. In the first part, Lily and Ed are newlyweds. You’d think they’d be happy after their whirlwind romance and wedding but they’re not. Lily, an up and coming lawyer, is still unsure why her handsome artist husband chose her – not unattractive but a little on the large side. When she meets Ed’s ex, the beautiful Davina, Lily’s even more convinced that Ed doesn’t really love her. But maybe it’s her past that’s preventing her from completely loving Ed. To ease the tension between them, Lily agrees to babysit her Italian neighbour’s daughter, Carla, on Sunday afternoons. Carla becomes a linchpin between them, holding their rocky marriage together. But the appeal case for a convicted murderer that Lily is working on is all consuming, Ed’s drinking is rapidly heading out of control and there’s a shock discovery about Carla’s mother – can they all survive?
In part two, fifteen years on, Lily and Ed are still together with a son called Tom, who has Asperger’s Syndrome. The strain of looking after him is taking its toll on them so they send him to Lily’s parents in Devon. Although Tom has brought them together, there are still cracks in their relationship. Carla returns, no longer a child but a beautiful young woman. Will she be a linchpin again or a hammer to smash them apart?
At First Monday Crime, Jane Corry cited two influences on this book – the break up of her first marriage and her time as a writer in residence in a male prison. She wanted to explore divorce and the relationships that come out of that – in particular new spouses. Hence the title My Husband’s Wife. I found the first part of the book a little slower in pace but the devil here is in the detail. There are many things that we need to know for part two to work. And then part two started to skip by and I found it hard to put it down.
There are two main narrators – Lily and Carla. Unusually, Jane Corry has used both first person and third person viewpoints (Lily is first and Carla third). I would love to know if this was a deliberate ploy for the reader to empathize more with Lily but either way, it definitely works. Initially I loved Carla as a child but rapidly changed my mind in part two.
Corry writes eloquently about the pain of divorce and new partners:
‘ – you can never really wipe away a marriage. A piece of a paper is not a rubber or a bottle of Tippex. It can legally negate the ‘contract’ between two parties, as a lawyer may put it. But it cannot expunge the memories, the traditions, the patterns that spring up between a couple, no matter how good or bad the state of their relationship.‘
You may be wondering where the crime is in all of this. There is one and we’re told about it right at the beginning of the book but have to wait until the end to find out who’s responsible.
One last thing I want to mention is Jane Corry’s writing about Asperger’s Syndrome. This is a subject close to my heart and I managed to ask her about this at First Monday Crime. She explained that although she has some knowledge about it, she turned to the National Autistic Society to make sure that what she wrote was authentic. I can tell you now, Jane, it’s pretty spot on. And not just what a person with AS goes through but also the turmoil for the parents. Thank you.
If you want to follow Jane Corry on Twitter then
@JaneCorryAuthor and you can buy her book here