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Another good novel from Koomson
The Woman He Loved Before - Dorothy Koomson
Member Name: cerys82
The Woman He Loved Before - Dorothy Koomson
Date: 26/04/11, updated on 26/04/11 (42 review reads)
Advantages: Gripping story, well plotted
Disadvantages: A bit unconvincing in places
So-called chick-lit is a genre that I dip in and out of, finding that in general it is somewhat oversubscribed and as such good novels are outnumbered by not so good.
However there are authors who provide exceptions to the rule and Koomson is one of these. She is one of the few authors in any genre of whom I have read all their novels. The Woman He Loved Before is the latest one of these and is currently available in hardback.
We meet Libby in the depths of a traumatic situation. As she slowly begins to recover from this situation we learn in flashback of how she met her now-husband Jack and the history of their relationship. This itself has not been a path lined in roses, from their obtuse beginnings to the revelation that Jack himself is a widower having lost his first wife Eve in tragic and perhaps suspicious circumstances a few years earlier.
As time progresses, Libby begins to doubt the strength of her marriage and begins to explore notions that point to something far, far darker than she ever could have suspected about Eve's life and death. These suspicions are confounded by Libby's discover of Eve's diaries which allow the whole dramatic saga to unravel.
Over the course of the novels Koomson has developed more of a tendency to the darkside of life. Her earliest novels eg The Cupid Effect, The Chocolate Run were rather light and frothy and leaned a little too much towards coincidence and superstition for my liking. Her high point I think was in the heartwrenching yet occasionally uplifting tragedies that she details in the likes of 'My Best Friend's Girls, Marshmallows for Breakfast and Goodnight Beautiful. 'The Woman...' and her previously novel 'The Ice Cream Girls' have seen a lurch to altogether more disturbing territory in the revelations that they have uncovered.
It is revelations that are Koomson's specialties to be honest. She has a real skill for creating characters that we care about but holding something back and retaining a bit of mystery that gets the reader turning the pages in order to get the full picture.
This book is not an exception and I have to say that I did find it quite' unputdownable' , finishing it in the garden over a sunny Bank Holiday morning and afternoon.
As has become another trait of Koomson's writing, she builds tension and develops the plot by telling the story through multiple voices, here mainly Libby, posthumously through Eve and to a lesser extent - Jack.
Yes, this is an engaging novel but by the same measure it is notably flawed in a number of ways. For instance, and particularly when with regards to Jack's story, the desire to provide tension to the reader is a more than a little heavy handed in my opinion. It seems that every section that comes from Jack's point of view, particularly in the earlier stages of the book, ends with him fretting about the secrets he is keeping from her. This repetition is unnecessary and actually undercuts some of the suspense, not least because one of the revelations that he is particularly worried about actually transpires to be a bit of not much of a big deal.
When it comes to the larger revelations regarding Eve, which much of the crux of the story development hangs on, well I have say that I guessed the twist quite early on. I think with a little more deftness of touch, Koomson could have kept things equally as believable but still slightly more surprising. However, I understand that this is a fine balance to tread.
These criticisms should also not take away from the fact that I really did enjoy this book. I felt engaged with the characters and really bought into the underlying darkness that existed within. Some of it is quite dark and disturbing and perhaps not what you might expect from the slightly naff soft-focus photographic cover and I think this darkness is perhaps more adeptly dealt with in this novel than in the 'The Ice Cream Girls' , which felt a little unbelievable and unrelatable at times, if not more than a little sensationalist.
Koomson is always a solid and interesting writer who has interesting ideas and crafts them exceptionally well within a story which keeps you gripped. So, in conclusion despite some grating elements I did still really enjoy this book and raced through it in no time and am genuinely intrigued as to what she will come up with next.
Summary: A solid, tense piece