The Other Mrs Walker  -  Mary Paulson-Ellis

The Other Mrs Walker - Mary Paulson-Ellis

A superbly engaging debut novel with a style that is completely different from much of the normal predictable formula that is serving the genre. I found it a very evocative and atmospheric read.

It must be said straight away that this book is a ‘marmite’ type of read: you are either going to love it or hate it, there’s very little middle ground.

I found the story a rather voyeuristic look at deep, dark, family secrets: and let's be fair, who amongst us doesn’t have family secrets? - Though perhaps not as deep and dark as this family. But it’s deliciously naughty to peep in on other people’s secrets isn’t it?

The story in a nutshell: a lady travels to Edinburgh from London surprising her elderly mother; a lady living alone in Edinburgh dies; our traveller takes on the job of sorting out the deceased’s estate and funeral and it all unravels from there. Old, dirty secrets come tumbling out by the score.

My one serious complaint at this book is that for quite a long while I kept confusing the main character (Margaret) with her mother (Barbara). I don’t know why this is, but it might be because of my own family circumstances. I’ve not seen any other reviews making this particular point, but it frustrated me for quite a while.

A much more minor, almost insignificant complaint was the orange ‘joke’ running through the story. It was amusing the first couple of times, but after that, I started to find it a little tedious as I just couldn’t see it adding anything to the story.

The book jumps between years and decades quite freely and whilst I’d normally complain and be irritated by such actions this one didn’t bother me one iota: I even found it quite easy to follow, which is odd because the leaps were not by any means sequential.

I found the descriptive narrative to be spot on. I’ve been alone in Edinburgh over a bleak, cold and dark winter and I understood how the characters involved felt. I think it’s these descriptions that made the book for me. Whilst I’ve never been in the position of any of the more unfortunate characters, the author’s sympathetic handling of their feelings shines through.

I’m not going to claim this book is a ‘page turner’ but it is well written and if you let it, it draws you gently into a world of secrets that stretch back many years. Having just had a couple of dreadful weeks in my own life, I somehow found solace in picking this book up every night for a read before falling asleep.

I’m going to run to 4 anchors on this book as I recognise it’s not a book for everyone but it’s well worth trying.