Another Woman’s Husband review
A one-and-done novel
Another Woman’s Husband, released in 2017 by historical fiction novelist Gill Paul, centres around love, friendship, mystery and betrayal, creatively linking together the past and the present. Through the alternating perspectives of Rachel and Mary, the two female protagonists, this novel provides readers with a glimpse into the lives of these two completely different women. Despite my strong admiration and respect towards Gill Paul and her writing style, unfortunately, and I hate to say this, but Another Woman’s Husband was a disappointing read, especially in comparison to some of her other novels.
Chapter one begins in the summer of 1997 with Rachel, who is on a romantic getaway in Paris with her boyfriend, Alex. One night while heading back to their hotel after having dinner out, the taxi they are riding in is stopped by an accident. Rachel and Alex are shocked when they discover that the victims of the crash are Princess Diana, her boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed, her bodyguard and driver and they are even more shocked when they hear hours later that Princess Diana did not survive. Once back home in Brighton, England, more problems arise when Rachel discovers that her vintage clothing store, Forgotten Dreams has been broken into and all of the till’s money, along with the majority of more expensive clothing and jewelry, has been stolen. Angry and crushed by what has happened, Rachel desperately tries to fix the damages and purchase more items in order to maintain her store and avoid financial ruin.
At the same time, Rachel and Alex cannot easily forget the tragic event they encountered in Paris. While Rachel is caught up with concern for how Diana may have felt, Alex quickly becomes caught up in the circumstances surrounding the crash. Motivated by the belief that the crash and Diana’s death may not have been purely accidental, Alex decides to make a documentary film. Unfortunately, Alex’s project turns into an obsession, creating a major rift in their relationship and when a surprising event occurs, their relationship is tested even further.
Chapter two switches to Mary’s perspective, which begins in the summer of 1911. That summer while at Miss Charlotte Noland’s Summer Camp for Girls, Mary meets Bessiewallis (Wallis) and the two instantly become “honorary sisters,” promising to be “friend[s] for life, always and forever, until the very end of time.” As the years pass, no matter the distance, Mary and Wallis remain best friends sharing secrets, experiences and always making time to spend together.
However, their friendship begins to deteriorate and appear more one-sided as they get older. Throughout Mary’s life she experiences numerous hardships and difficulties, including
the inability to conceive a child, personal injuries, a sick mother and a husband with a drinking problem. Unfortunately, despite Mary’s willingness to help and support Wallis whenever she runs into problems, or is having a tough time, Wallis is never there for Mary in the same way.
Their friendship becomes even more strained when Wallis becomes involved with Ernest, one of Mary’s dearest and closest married friends. Not only does Mary become angry at Wallis for breaking up Ernest’s marriage, but also for marrying the man whom she feels is better suited for her. Mary’s anger towards Wallis increases years later when Wallis becomes involved with Prince Edward and begins to ignore Ernest. Unsurprisingly, Mary eventually becomes tired of Wallis’ selfishness and always being a loyal friend and finally decides to pursue her own happiness. Unfortunately, her actions result in an unforgivable betrayal, forever destroying their former friendship
Although Another Woman’s Husband is an interesting story, there were some factors which contributed to my overall unenjoyment.
In order for readers to become completely immersed into a story, it needs to have good, strong characters whom readers can relate to, or at least sympathize with. Unfortunately, this aspect was missing from the novel, as I found it difficult to be drawn into either Rachel, or Mary’s story. In my opinion, both were weak female protagonists, especially when it came to satisfying the people closest to them. For example, Rachel always helps Alex by getting him a drink when he gets home and traveling to Paris to help him, but it never seems like the same level of support is reciprocated. Additionally, until near the end, Mary seems painfully naive about the true nature of Wallis’ personality. As a result, when Mary betrays Wallis, I surprisingly somehow felt more sympathy for Wallis, than satisfied by Mary’s attainment of her own personal happiness.
Another thing that added to my lack of enjoyment was the incorporation of too many fashion details. Even though this information is important to Rachel’s character, for individuals, like myself with very little fashion knowledge, these details are confusing and uninteresting.
Lastly, while many of Paul’s previous books had a great connection between the protagonists, that wasn’t the case in this novel. Although Rachel is connected to Princess Diana after witnessing her tragic car crash, the connection between Mary, Wallis and Princess Diana was somewhat weak because it was based only on the notion that Princess Diana visited Villa Windsor (Wallis’ former home after she became Duchess via her marriage to Prince Edward) hours before her death. While this novel elaborates on the reason for Princess Diana’s visit, the real reason remains unknown. Additionally, although Wallis met and liked Prince Charles, it’s uncertain whether her and her and Princess Diana ever met.
Similar to her other novels, Another Woman’s Husband was well researched, with historical facts woven into the novel, such as the characters of Mary (Kirk) and Wallis (Warfield), who did exist and were friends, the grief society felt following Princess Diana’s death, as well as the curiosity and controversy surrounding the circumstances of her crash.
Despite not enjoying this book, I still look forward to reading more Gill Paul novels and encourage others to check them out as well. Gill Paul is a skilled historical fiction novelist and one bad book doesn’t change my opinion of her, or her writing.