The Judge’s Wife

51JgJmt0TWL1950’s Ireland and Grace is coerced into an arranged marriage to an older, wealthy judge by her guardian – a cruel, ruthless aunt. Grace eventually falls in love with an Indian doctor, Vikram, and falls pregnant. Poor Grace is sent to an asylum a few days after giving birth in order to hide the scandal. Vikram is told that Grace has died in childbirth, and Grace is told that her child didn’t survive. Thirty years later and the culmination of all these lies reach breakpoint when Emma – who believes her mother, Grace, died many years ago – returns to attend to her father’s estate on his death, and so begins a journey to discover the full extent of her father’s deception.
I thought this was quite a page-turner for a number of reasons. It’s a highly complex tale with two time-slips set in both India and Ireland, but it didn’t quite work for me as many important aspects felt skimmed over and a bit thin. I thought it lacked some depth, especially of character, and as the story gathered pace the plot began to feel like a procession of shock twists – some of them not especially credible. There were a few niggles with the grammar too, with many repeated words, in particular ‘pleats,’ and ‘pleated.’ And why was Martin repeatedly called ‘The Judge’, when his name would have been more realistic? Emma was a shadowy figure for me, and no explanation as to why the aunt was so cruel. And when Grace – an especially weak character – is taken to the asylum after giving birth there was no reference to her physical or emotional state. The romantic aspects were quite sugary, perhaps too light for the overall tone of the book. Despite this I did read to 80% and then skimmed to the end. All the ingredients were there; the historical time-slips, the secrets, the prejudice of the times, and the forbidden love stories: it just wasn’t executed to my taste. Fabulous descriptions of India, and I love the beautiful cover.

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Things we Choose to Hide

50544743._SY475_On the rebound at the end of a long-term relationship, Rachel flees to friends in Florence – and falls in love with handsome, albeit secretive, Tommaso. They marry within weeks. It seems a rash decision for such an independent, intelligent woman with career prospects – plans she has no intention of giving up or changing for the preferences of a man bound by Italian convention. And this especially since she’s given up everything to stay in Italy with her new husband; to learn his first language, make new friends, and pursue her photography career in a foreign country rather than on home ground in Scotland.
Unease grows within the relationship when Rachel discovers her husband is keeping secrets. During a low time, Rachel travels to India to revisit the places she grew up as a child. The poverty and spirituality she experiences there and a sympathetic meeting-of-minds through the Catholic priest, Pasha, contrasts sharply with the rich scenery and her privileged, more formal way of life in Italy. As Tommaso’s complex secrets come to light and disaster strikes, Rachel must find great reserves of character to keep afloat, both emotionally and practically. Her reward – eventually – is to discover love in the most unexpected of places.
The great strength and appeal of this book lies in the rich descriptive knowledge the author brings to the locations: the food, the people, and the culture, without detracting from the story. I did sense some detachment from the main character from time to time, where a little more depth might have convinced me more assuredly of her emotions and motivations. Otherwise, a well written novel with ambitious scope. Great escapism.

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