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Book Review: The Wife by Shalini Boland

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

The Wife by Shalini Boland

Publication Date: 9th Sep 2020

Genre: Psychological Thriller/ Mystery

3.7 Stars

*Moderate Spoilers*

Crime, mystery, and thrillers have always been a favorite. The suspense, the red herrings, the twists, and the excitement of wanting to know what happens are alluring. When I came across the cover of this book, I was intrigued by the simplicity of the title and the cover picture. The description was equally attractive, and I requested a review copy.

To summarize, The Wife is the story of Zoe, a loving wife, mother of two, and a hairdresser. Her life revolves around her family (mainly constituting her husband’s side) and a few friends. She is busy planning a party to celebrate her 10th wedding anniversary when things start to go wrong. Back on her wedding day, Zoe faints and wakes up having no memory of what had happened and why she fainted.

The past and present start to collide as the bonds she lovingly built threatens to break. What has happened? What is happening? What is the truth? How will it change her life?

The book starts with a short prologue narrated by the killer. It then continues with Zoe telling us her story in bits and pieces. She goes between the present and different parts of the past. The flow is smooth and easy to follow. At no place did I feel confused about the setting or the incidents taking place.

We are introduced to quite a few characters during the first 2 chapters. Not all of them play an important role in the story, though. That is one of my issues with the book.

We have a predictable friendship track with a selfish girl, a moody father, a missing/ runaway sister, a devoted husband, loving in-laws, and supportive friends.

Zoe is, amidst everything, trying to manage her overwrought emotions and wanting to have the perfect anniversary party as she feels her fainting episode ruined her wedding day. But when do things ever go as per our plans?

Zoe pretty much speaks in circles at times and keeps obsessing over her younger sister, Dina. Her relationship with her father isn’t great, which is another cause of concern for her. When we see that things have been the same for more than a decade, her constant need to make them right appears a bit too much.

One can’t help but wonder if it’s her subconscious telling her that something is wrong and she needs to find out what happened before she fainted on the wedding day. But that didn’t make me feel sad for Zoe. While I was fine with her not being a strong character, I did want her to stop repeating the same stuff about her trying to take care of the sister and how it caused a rift between them.

This sister, Dina, makes a guest entry during the climax but manages to stay surreal throughout. A lot hinges on her even though she has no active role. Other characters come and go, doing little to add to the story. We could have moved faster if not for them.

The second half is definitely paced better than the first. So much so that everything happens one after another without a break. From going around in circles to rushing through the scenes, the pacing is better but still off. The suspense, though predictable, tries to even out the climax to an extent.

At last, the truth is revealed, the masks are off, and Zoe’s world doesn’t just turn upside down, it almost chokes to death.

Since I’m still trying not to reveal the major plot, I’ll shift my focus to this month’s topic at The Writer’s Workout: Villains.

What’s better than a psychological thriller to talk about villains?

So who is the villain here? I can’t tell you that. Wouldn’t it spoil the fun of reading the book?

But, since the story is from Zoe’s POV (Point of View), we can see how she tries to connect the dots, jump to conclusions at times, analyze other’s words and actions, and finally, how she remembers everything that points out to the actual villain. Of course, it’s too late by then, and she’s not in a position to do anything.

One aspect I like about Zoe is that she understanding, a little too much at times. However, her instincts are strong 70% of the time. Memory plays a major role and puts things into the right perspective, and I wished she listened to her instinct.

I drifted away from the topic. Apologies. The villain in this book is clever, composed, and manipulative. Perfect, isn’t it? It is, at least for me. I like villains who doesn't lose control over themselves.

As you read the last page, you’ll realize just how stable the villain is and why Zoe can’t match up in more ways than one. It could be a plus or a minus, depending on how much you relate to Zoe and invest in her character. For me, the feelings were mixed as I did want Zoe to become strong. Yet, I have to admit that I’m quite impressed by the villain.

We could say the book has more than one bad guy (irrespective of gender). Not all of them have their characters etched out in detail. And not all of them are equally bad, obviously. Still, the lack of detail diluted the impact of their actions and made them seem more like puppets. Maybe that’s all they will be.

The one who’s supposed to be the villain does nothing much except be petty. I’m still not sure what real purpose the character served to get as much space in the book. There is a reason, yes, just not enough to have such importance.

We also have a surreal sister, remember? But to know what she does or doesn’t do, you’ll have to read the book. ;)

Overall, The Wife is a decent book with a clean flow of events and an engaging story. I wouldn’t call it my favorite, but I did enjoy reading it.

I received an ARC copy from NetGalley and Bookouture.


About the author: Srivalli Rekha is a blogger, writer, and amateur photographer. She got a degree in MBA and MA English Literature and chose to become a writer and a poet instead of a corporate professional.


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