Monday 23 January 2023

Other Women by Emma Flint #OtherWomen @flint_writes @picadorbooks @panmacmillan #BookReview


In a lonely cottage on a deserted stretch of shore, a moment of tragedy between lovers becomes a horrific murder. And two women who should never have met are connected for ever . . .

Six years after the end of the Great War, a nation is still in mourning. Thousands of husbands, fathers, sons and sweethearts were lost in Europe; millions more came back wounded and permanently damaged.

Beatrice Cade is an orphan, unmarried and childless - and given the dearth of men, likely to remain that way. London is full of women like her: not wives, not widows, not mothers. There is no name for these invisible women, and no place for their grief. Determined to carve out a richer and more fulfilling way to live as a single woman, Bea takes a room in a Bloomsbury ladies’ club and a job in the City. Then a fleeting encounter changes everything. Bea's emerging independence is destroyed when she falls in love for the first time.

Kate Ryan is an ordinary wife and mother who has managed to build an enviable life with her handsome husband and her daughter. To anyone looking in from the outside, they seem like a normal, happy family - until two policemen knock on her door one morning and threaten to destroy the facade Kate has created.

Other Women by Emma Flint is published on 23 February 2023 by Picador. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

Way back in October 2017 I read and reviewed Emma Flint's debut novel, Little Deaths. It is an astounding novel and has remained a favourite of mine ever since. I have been waiting patiently for her next novel, and finally, at last, here it is. And what an absolute treat this book is, I devoured it over one weekend. 

Based loosely on a real-life murder case from the 1920s, we are thrust into London six years after the end of the first world war. 

The story is narrated in the main by the two lead female characters; Bea and Kate. Two very different women who have similar jobs but very different personal lives, yet they become connected in a tragic and horrific way. A way that the reader sees slowly unfold as the novel progresses, yet neither Bea or Kate can imagine the horror that their lives will become. 

Bea is early thirties, unmarried and lives in a room in a Ladies Club in Bloomsbury. She works as a typist and is very aware that after the horrors of the war that have left a shortage of young men that she is facing life as a spinster. Well read and intelligent, she's a solitary figure, looked on with pity by the younger girls in her office, yet she has dreams and it becomes clear that she is passionate. When newly appointed salesman Tom arrives in the office for the first time, Bea feels something that she's never felt before, and Tom's knowing glint only encourages her. She falls in love. 

Kate is also in her thirties and also works in an office. However, she's a proud mother and wife. Married for thirteen years, with a young daughter, Kate is proud of her family and her house in a middle class area of London. 

And then Kate's life begins to crumble when the police knock on her door. 

Emma Flint has cleverly structured this story so that the reader is aware of the murder trial from the beginning. Both Bea and Kate's voices are strong and readers will empathise with both of them. As Kate slowly allows herself to realise what she's been trying to hide for years, and Bea's delight and happiness begins to fade, the story becomes quite harrowing and utterly devastating. 

The sense of place and the traditions of the era are done superbly. The treatment of women, especially unmarried women, and the almost film-star status given to a man purely because of his looks is wonderfully portrayed. Along with the tea rooms of London, the department stores and the mechanisms of the 1920s office environment, it's a joy to discover. 

A novel that raises so many questions, populated by colourful and beautifully constructed characters. It is utterly brilliant. Twisting and full of tension, this is most certainly going to appear on my best books of the year list. 

Emma Flint was born and grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne. She graduated from the University of St Andrews with an MA in English Language and Literature, and later completed a novel-writing course at the Faber Academy. She lives and works in London.

Since childhood, she has been drawn to true-crime stories, developing an encyclopaedic knowledge of real-life murder cases from the early 20th century. Her first novel, 
Little Deaths, was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, for the Desmond Elliott Prize, for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award, and for The Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize.

Other Women is her second novel.

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