Recieved from Librarything Early reviewers programme ages ago – not sure why I have take so long to read it – but glad I did.
A newly-widowed woman has done a runner. She just jumped in her car, abandoned her (very nice) house in north London and kept on driving until she reached the Norfolk coast. Now she’s rented a tiny cottage and holed herself away there, if only to escape the ceaseless sympathy and insincere concern. She’s not quite sure, but thinks she may be having a bit of a breakdown. Or perhaps this sense of dislocation is perfectly normal in the circumstances. All she knows is that she can’t sleep and may be drinking a little more than she ought to. But as her story unfolds we discover that her marriage was far from perfect. That it was, in fact, full of frustration and disappointment, as well as one or two significant secrets, and that by running away to this particular village she might actually be making her own personal pilgrimage. By turns elegiac and highly comical, The Widow’s Tale conjures up this most defiantly unapologetic of narrators as she begins to pick over the wreckage of her life and decide what has real value and what she should leave behind.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I had expected it to be more sombre in tone, or a little depressing and so was pleasently surprised by the wit of our caustic, nameless widow.This strong no nonsense narrative voice made me sit up for the first twenty pages or so – as it was so not what I was expecting, yet our narrator emerges as as strong quirky character, who I found brilliantly realisitic and often very funny. Having lost her husband around 3 months earlier she is somewhat lost, drinking too much, and irritated by well meaning friends. In this mood she fleas to north Norfolk, where she takes a tiny cottage, and walks on the saltmarshes, buys a tiny second hand car, and obsesses over a book of Holbein prints. Reflecting back over her life as a wife, and even before that as a young girl, we get to know this interesting complex woman as she starts to make some sense of her life, and understand things about herself and her marriage. We come to see why that part of Norfolk has drawn her back, and how it helps to set her on a straighter path. There is a lot of poignancy in this novel, a good deal about loss and grief, helped along by some really good writing.