“ Author: Tamar Cohen / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 20 June 2013 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd / Title: The War of the Wives / ISBN 13: 9780552777537 / ISBN 10: 0552777537 / Alternative EAN: 9780857520340 „
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Simon Busfield is dead; drowned in the Thames and until his funeral, no one knew of his double life. His two wives and families' lives are worlds apart. Selina is rich, posh and sophisticated and cares about her looks and worldly belongings. Lottie on the other hand is a hard grafter who lived in a small apartment with Simon and their teenage daughter. The two women meet for the first time during Simon's funeral and are both shocked to learn of each other's existance. Lottie's opinion of Selina is condescending while selina thinks Lottie was only after Simon's money. The inheritance throws up more spanners in the works for these women who soon realise that there is more to simon's previously guarded life than they were prerpared to know. It all points to a dubious, shaddy life as there is somebody else after Simon's money; probably some of his unsavoury business partners.
What i thought about the storyline
I am not a big fan of Tamar Cohen but i enjoyed reading this book. The characters are believable. The build up to the funeral and the meeting of the wives for the first time is well written. I thought Tamar had used up all her creative juices to bring this to a climax but i was wrong. There are more twists and turns after this which kept me hooked on. One cannot help but develop a sense of dislike for the widows as they keep 'bitching' at each other; again a very common thing from my African background where polygamy is acceptable and co-wives don't see eye to eye; jealousy is rife. So this particular part took me back 'home'. I found the meeting of the half brothers and half sisters heart warming despite their mothers' best efforts to keep them apart, the siblings try to forge a relationship and embrace their new found families. The book flies and before you know it, you have leafed through the 414 pages in no time.
The choice of words and sentences is a testimony to Tamar's command of the written word.
~A Tale of Two Women~
After 28 years of happy marriage and three children, Selina's life in her exquisite house can be considered perfect. That is right up to the moment the police turn up to tell her that her husband's body has been found in a river. It shouldn't be possible; he's supposed to be in Dubai, so how could he have drowned in London?
After 17 years of happy marriage that produced a beautiful daughter, Lottie is horrified when an old friend rings up to sympathise for her loss and to offer to drive her to her husband's funeral. But how can this be happening when nobody has told her that Simon is dead?
At the funeral the two new widows meet and realise how much they have in common - basically that they were both married to the same man. Let the cat fight commence!
~Not my normal sort of reading matter~
Tamar Cohen's second book, The War of the Wives, is a page turner that may have you putting life ever so slightly on hold as you strive to find out what's going on, how such a situation could come about without either wife knowing, and how Simon's dodgy business affairs still threaten his family - or more precisely his families.
I don't generally read this sort of fiction. It's not quite in the 'chick lit' genre which I avoid as far as possible but it's definitely 'female fiction' of the Joanna Trollope meets Jodie Picoult stable. I wouldn't normally be attracted to such a tale but when the publishers offered a copy to Curiousbookfans.co.uk, I said I'd give it a go. I think Vlad who runs curiousbookfans was baffled at my choice. So why was I drawn to something so far outside my normal reading field? Because I knew someone to whom something very similar happened and I was intrigued to see if the fictional and real world stories might match up.
In my student days I had a boyfriend whose grandfather died - a sad but not unexpected event. His grandmother, his mother and uncles and aunts all turned up at the funeral to be confronted with a whopping great secret - that granddad was a bit of a lad and had kept a second family for over 40 years. His mother and her siblings suddenly discovered a whole bunch of half brothers and sisters and the two widows met for the first time. The difference in his case was that family number two knew that family number one existed but the same couldn't be said for the reverse.
~Predictable in places but still a page-turner~
The characters are a little cartoon-like in their clichés. Selina is cold, calm, and beautiful in an older 'well maintained' sort of way. She has an enviable and expensive wardrobe of the kind of clothes only the idle wealthy housewife can amass. She's a model of self control and propriety, a pillar of the community and a professional wife. Lottie is a decade and a half younger, with wild untamed hair and a childlike figure and distinctly hippy leanings. Her wedding on a beach in Goa tied her to the man she now realises was not free to marry her. Her status as wife and then widow is suddenly ripped away from her and replaced with that of unwitting mistress and now ex-mistress of a dead man and not a husband.
As you can expect, both parties gather their troops and supporters around them to fight their corners. Each woman assumes the other is at fault. As so often happens even in the more common scenario of divorces, the two women each see the other as the enemy, the wrong-doer and the home-wrecker whilst the straying male gets off relatively lightly (except for the small matter of being dead, of course). Selina sees Lottie as a calculating man-stealer whilst Lottie thinks Selina must have driven Simon away with her cold ways. Even with their man dead and cremated, the two women are still competing with each other.
~The Mourning Cycle~
The book progresses through what psychologists have long recognised as the 'mourning cycle' as the women move through the phases which apply to all losses and horrifying shocks from bereavement to redundancy to just getting dumped by your partner. They start with denial - it can't be Simon's body, it must be someone else, there's been a horrible mistake. Step two is anger - mostly directed by each wife at the other, although Selina has all of the photos of Simon turned to face the wall for a few days. Step three is bargaining - Selina starts an affair, rationalising that she's only getting her own back on Simon, Lottie swallows a mountain of pills. Step four is depression - not just for the two widows but also for their children and finally we reach the final stage, Acceptance.
Whilst the book is mostly about the two women and their reactions to the death, to the revelation that their lives have been lived in ignorance of the lies they've been told, and their gradual coming to terms with what's happened, they are not the only two people affected. The stories of the children, three for Selina, one for Lottie, are also fascinating. Their reactions are sometimes even more extreme than those of their mothers. When Lottie's daughter gets a bit too friendly with Selina's sons, the sparks start to fly. The last thing either mother needs is incest to add on top of bigamy. In their own ways, each of the children is suffering their own mourning cycles.
Lest the book become too much of a family saga, there is a half-decent plot running through about how Simon died. Did he kill himself or was he killed? In either case the question of why remains unanswered for most of the book. We learn he's been up to no good - well it's not easy to run two families on one income so that's not hard to understand - so there are plenty of business lies that have been told and dodgy deals indulged in to maintain his double life. I didn't spot the 'whodunnit' aspect of the story at all, probably because I wasn't expecting it in a book that was a family saga.
I wouldn't go out of my way to hunt down more books by Tamar Cohen but I did enjoy this one rather more than I expected. It's a very easy read with short chapters flicking back and forth between the two women, but I was hooked enough to find myself reading it in the bath and going to bed early to find out what happened next. I'm not about to abandon my more high-brow reading on a regular basis but this was a pleasant, light read that was executed rather well.
In the case of my long-ago boyfriend's family, the two wives became quite good friends and the half siblings got along much better than most of us would suppose might be possible. But if you want to know how things eventually pan out for Simon's wives and children, you'll have to buy a copy of 'The War of the Wives'.
The War of the Wives, Tamar Cohen
Published by Trans World Books
410pp RRP 14.99
With thanks to Trans World and Curiousbookfans.co.uk for my free review copy.
Imagine being happily married for 28 years. You have three children, a lovely house and a husband who travels a lot - but even after all this time, you still love each other. Or: imagine being happily married for 17 years. You have one daughter, a lovely home and though your husband travels a lot, you still love each other passionately. Then one day you get a call that turns your world upside down: your husband is dead. You are devastated. You go to the funeral... And come face to face with his other widow. Another wife, another family. It can't be true. It must be a mistake.It has to be her fault - all of it. Or: is it? With the sharp and witty scalpel she used in The Mistress's Revenge, Tamar Cohen lays bare the raw emotions.
Selina thinks her marriage to husband Simon, whilst not perfect by any means, is pretty good. They're financially comfortable, have 3 older children who are doing well with their lives, a lovely holiday home in Tuscany, and a pretty happy lifestyle. Sure, Simon spends a lot of time away on business, but she's used to that, and it quite suits her having some time to herself. Then there's Lottie, happily married to husband Simon for 17 years with a daughter, and the three live in a small flat in London after recently returning from living in Dubai. Even after so long together, Lottie is still madly in love with her husband, and he with her, but things are about to fall apart when both of Simon's wives find out each other exists at Simon's funeral after his sudden and unexpected death. Soon enough, a war between the wives ensues as to who actually is Simon's legal wife, and which wife gave him the better life...this is a war that is going to run and run...
Cohen's debut novel The Mistresses Revenge was a book that had a pretty controversial topic, and I enjoyed the book because it was so unusual, and almost made me feel sympathy towards the mistress, even though I knew what she was doing was wrong. Luckily, Cohen has again picked another controversial topic, this time the idea of bigamy, where a man is married to more than one wife without her knowing about it. Straight away, I knew it was going to be a great read and I couldn't wait to see how the story would unfold, and what exactly would happen between the warring wives! I have to mention the cover as well, and with it's shades of emerald green, it's quite eye-catching and really pretty too - simple but effective and I love it!
The story is told through the alternating narratives of the two wives - Selina and Lottie. Immediately, I felt that I liked Lottie a lot more than Selina, she seemed much more down to earth and "normal", and I liked that she didn't care where she was living, she just wanted to be with Simon and their daughter. Selina however, gives the impression of needing the money and well-to-do lifestyle that Simon's job provides, and it doesn't seem that the pair are hugely in love and need that affection like Lottie does. The two narratives really allows you to get into the heads of the women and try and understand how they are feeling, and why they act how they do. Both narratives are written in the first person, so it manages to keep things secret until Cohen wants them revealed, and leaves us in suspense too!
I felt so sorry for both the women when Simon's duplicity is revealed, but the mystery surrounding his death is one that continues throughout the book. Both Selina and Lottie are in the dark about how and why Simon has died, as they are about his other marriage, and Selina in particular is desperate to find out what her husband was up to, especially when she starts realising she might well lose her home to Lottie if the police think Simon commited suicide. Selina did seem the stronger of the women during the book, and as it went on I warmed to her more but there was just something more likeable about Lottie, even if she does really fall apart when she learns of her husband's betrayal, as I'm sure most women would! As the book so heavily relates to these characters, there aren't too many more in there other than the children of both women, a couple of friends and family members, and that's about it, and it worked well this way.
I found that it was a gripping book, and I loved how it wasn't at all predictable and kept me on the edge of my seat as I was reading. There was a great cast of characters, and the way that both of the wives had such different lifestyles and marriages to the same man made it even better, as you still can't really understand why Simon does what he does in the book! I wasn't able to work out how Simon died and for what reasons until Cohen really wanted us to at the end, and it was a bit of a shocker, I'll give you that! The book's main focus is of course the wives and the struggle they go through with coming to terms with their husband's deceit, but I enjoyed the other small stories involving the children too, there was always something going on in the background, and I found some particular scenes involving Selina and their family dog very emotional to read as I related to it all too well :( Overall, though, a fantastic second novel from Cohen, and she cements herself as a brilliant new voice in a darker brand of women's fiction, simply excellent!
ISBN: 978-0857520340. Published by Doubleday on July 19th 2012. Pages: 416. RRP: £14.99 for the hardback. Also available as an eBook.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitchloe.blogspot.com
Thank you for reading.