Friday 23 October 2020

The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig @AmandaPCraig #TheGoldenRule @LittleBrownUK #BookReview


When Hannah is invited into the First-Class carriage of the London to Penzance train by Jinni, she walks into a spider's web. Now a poor young single mother, Hannah once escaped Cornwall to go to university. But once she married Jake and had his child, her dreams were crushed into bitter disillusion. Her husband has left her for Eve, rich and childless, and Hannah has been surviving by becoming a cleaner in London. Jinni is equally angry and bitter, and in the course of their journey the two women agree to murder each other's husbands. After all, they are strangers on a train - who could possibly connect them?

But when Hannah goes to Jinni's husband's home the next night, she finds Stan, a huge, hairy, ugly drunk who has his own problems - not least the care of a half-ruined house and garden. He claims Jinni is a very different person to the one who has persuaded Hannah to commit a terrible crime. Who is telling the truth - and who is the real victim?

The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig was published in hardback on 2 July 2020, by Little Brown. The paperback is released in May next year. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

I read The Golden Rule whilst on my recent break in Corfu, over a couple of sunny days, sitting by the sea. I found it to be an absolutely perfect blend of mystery and domestic drama, incorporating some very relevant and current social affair issues. This author is very skilled. Her storytelling is sublime.

Two women meet on a train and agree to murder each other's husband. A nod to Strangers on a Train for sure, but fresher and more up to date, with two character who are artfully and cleverly created. 
Hannah is travelling to Cornwall to see her dying mother, probably for the final time. The cost of the train ticket has wiped her out financially, and she's left her small daughter at home. Jinni is travelling First Class and when she beckons Hannah to join her, they share wine and also their innermost thoughts about their lives, and their marriages.

So very far apart socially, Jinni and Hannah find that they have much in common. Namely, their estranged husbands, and the conversation turns to how much easier it would be if they were widows. By the end of Hannah's journey, she's agreed to murder Jinni's husband, and Jinni will do the same for her.

In Cornwall, Hannah faces up to reality. Back in her mother's almost squalid bungalow, she finds herself thrust back into a life of disadvantage; always overshadowed by the rich folk who live in the nicer, prettier Cornish towns. However, her family rally around, and what whilst money may be lacking, love and care is in abundance. 

Hannah does feel a little beholden to the elegant, rich Jinni though and tracks down her husband in his desolate, isolated house. The man she finds there is nothing like the one that Jinni described to her, and after a difficult and teetering beginning, Hannah and Stan strike up a strange relationship.

I found this story astonishing in its complexity and structure. What could be a totally over the top premise turns into a wonderfully rich and detailed story of a woman's life. This author is not shy in putting across her political views within her writing, and whilst I agree with her opinions, I realise that many readers could object to what could be classed as preaching. For me though, this added much more to the story; the characters and the sense of division in rural Cornwall.

There are clever and multiple twists within the tale that I didn't anticipate and which delighted me when I realised. 

This is a vividly imagined, dramatic and intriguing novel, and one that I recommend highly.

Amanda Craig is a British novelist, short-story writer and critic who has been compared to Dickens,Trollope, Balzac and Evelyn Waugh. As a literary chronicler of contemporary life she has called a "state of the nation novelist" by Prospect magazine and the Sunday Times, and her interconnected novels often feature strong plots with murder, romance and social satire.

In her twenties she became a journalist for newspapers such as The Sunday Times, the Observer, the Daily Telegraph and the Independent, winning both the Young Journalist of the Year and the Catherine Pakenham Award. She was the children's critic for the Independent on Sunday and The Times for over a decade. She still covers children's books for the New Statesman, and literary fiction for the Observer, and regularly reviews for Radio 4 Saturday Review, but is mostly a full-time novelist.

Her novels include A Private Place, A Vicious Circle, In a Dark Wood, Love in Idleness, Hearts and Minds (long-listed for the Bailey's Prize for Women's Fiction), The Other Side of You (a novella for Galaxy Quick Reads) and The Lie Of the Land, a BBC Radio 4 Book At Bedtime. It is currently being developed for TV serialisation. Her new novel, The Golden Rule, was published by Little,Brown in June 2020.

Each novel can be read separately, but is part of an interconnected contemporary cast of characters, in which minor protagonists become major. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

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