What’s it all about?:
One writer’s mysterious death, another’s relentless quest for fame, and a bitter literary critic’s passion for manipulation drive the story of this haunting novel set in a small upstate New York college town in the 1990s.
Catherine Strayed wonders if she’ll ever know the truth about the death of her husband, a promising writer who died under circumstances that could have been accidental, or a suicide, or perhaps even murder. But after his death, instead of leaving the secluded college town to which he had brought her, she simply tries to go on with her life there. When her former mentor, who had also briefly been her lover—a powerful critic who single handedly destroyed her husband’s chance for success—takes a teaching job at the college, Catherine’s world threatens to collapse. For with him has come his latest protégé, an exotic young woman named Antonia Lively who has written a novel that has become a literary sensation. She insinuates herself into Catherine’s life, and mysterious and frightening things start to happen as, unbeknownst to Catherine, the younger woman sets out to steal the truth of her life and the death of her husband so that she can plunder them for her next literary triumph.
What did I think?:
I got this book free from NetGalley so thanks to them first of all and to Algonquin Books. The premise of this book sounded very intriguing and I was excited to start it. Catherine loses her writer husband Wyatt in a questionable accident after he disappears mysteriously from their house one morning. She is slightly lost in the grieving process, unable to accept what has happened to her husband, and getting accustomed to living alone in a house filled with difficult memories. When an up and coming young author, Antonia Lively, appears on her doorstep one day, enquiring whether her cottage (separate to the house, where Wyatt used to work) is for rent, she is plunged into a situation which threatens her memories of her relationship with her husband, and her future happiness.
It transpires that Antonia is now involved with one of Catherine’s ex-lovers and her writing teacher, Henry. Even though she is warned by her friends not to, Catherine ends up renting the cottage to Henry, and has to suffer the couple right under her nose, so as to speak. Then strange things start occurring – a defacing of the cottage with ominous words: “Wren was Here,” and a sinister stranger who seems to have unfinished business with Antonia. We soon find out though that Antonia is not all sweetness and light, and has an ulterior motive for integrating her life with Catherine’s and indeed her lover Henry’s, and it is all tied up with things that happened in the past.
I definitely would say I enjoyed this novel, and I think it’s a very interesting idea for a story (plus I love reading about writers, books, libraries etc). It was fascinating enough to keep me turning the pages, and I was intrigued by the back story of all three main characters. I’m not sure if it was just missing that certain something, that I can’t put my finger on, and I found it fairly hard to suspend my disbelief at some points. I have to say the ending took me completely by surprise however, and think it was a perfect way to end the story. This author might be one to watch out for in the future, and I’ll keep my eyes open for more of his work.
Would I recommend it?:
Star rating (out of 5):