Author: Sally Hepworth
Publication Date: 29 January 2019
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
I have been a fan of Sally Hepworth ever since reading her debut and I always look out for her latest release.
The Mother-In-Law is a story that dragged me in from the very beginning and did not want to let go. Of late my reading has been sorely neglected, even books I enjoy have taken me two weeks to read. I got through the Mother-In-Law in about 4 days. If not for work and fitting in some last minute family time before the holidays ended it would have been much less.
I truly believe that this is going to be a story that stays with me, a story that makes me think beyond the surface and remember that you can never truly know another person’s mind.
The relationship between mother and daughter-in-law is often one that comes under scrutiny and is stereotypically fraught with tension. That is not always the case of course but there are always exceptions to the stereotypes.
I loved this book and I think it tells an important story, but I also think it is going to be one of those books that each reader is going to take their own experiences into and that is definitely going to colour their reading experience. Already I have read a couple of reviews that are so different from what I thought that I almost had to wonder if we read the same book.
Hepworth has written very strong characters, very set in their ways and single-minded about their purpose. I can see how they would be perceived differently depending on where you’re coming from but I quite enjoyed the way it played out.
The narrative flips between the present and the past and is told by Lucy and Diana, daughter-in-law and mother-in-law. These two characters are polar opposites on the surface. Lucy lost her mother as a teenager and though she has done perfectly well with just her dad it hasn’t stopped her missing that maternal influence so she has always dreamed of the day she would marry and gain not only a husband but also a mother-in-law with whom she can bond over baking. I’m sure this is something many young wives can relate to, not necessarily because they lost their mother young. There are many reasons we may look for that maternal connection with a mother-in-law.
Diana is a character who is going to divide readers of this one. She is a hard nut who doesn’t like attention and doesn’t share a lot about herself, she’s uncomfortable with attention and that makes it difficult to get to know her.
The Mother-In-Law opens with the news that Diana has been found dead in her home; it looks like suicide but the police need to investigate to be sure.
It is soon apparent that though it looks like suicide there is also evidence of suffocation, and everyone in the family is hiding something.
The narrative unfolds through past and present and by a third of the way in I felt truly sad for Diana. Yes, she comes across as hard and cold but through the first person narratives Hepworth allows us into her head so we see a little more of who she really is. We begin to understand the thinking behind her actions.
Hepworth has woven a gripping suspense that is character driven, and by the most fascinating characters. I found Diana to be the most fascinating by far. Yes, she has her faults but everything she did was from a good place; even if no-one else could see that.
The Mother-In-Law was a compelling and complex story of family, love, desire and devotion. I loved it and I could talk about it all night but there are too many twists and too many side story arcs that it would be easy to throw in a massive spoiler that might affect someone else’s enjoyment.
I found it an insightful and thought-provoking read that made me think about all the different ways there are to interpret anything, and how easy it is to misunderstand what was intended. How easy it is for us to interpret with our own insecurities and therefore totally miss the meaning of the words/gesture. We don’t always know and understand the background of the family we marry into so we can’t understand some of the gestures. To be completely honest we can’t know anyone else’s mind completely so we can never completely understand what motivates them.
Diana’s was a complex backstory and I loved getting to know her a little better. I think she was a strong and loving character, devoted to her family and doing what she thought was best even if it didn’t always hit the mark. I think it’s sad how much understanding dawned after it was way too late.
The Mother-In-Law is book #2 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2019.
The Mother-In-Law is published by Pan Macmillan and is available now through Angus & Robertson, Booktopia and where all good books are sold.
Thanks to Pan Macmillan we have 3 copies of The Mother-In-Law to giveaway to readers. So for your chance to win please tell us in the comments below about your most memorable mother-in-law moment.
Competition closes 28/02/19 midnight AEST. You must be subscribed to the Beauty and Lace newsletter OR a Facebook fan to enter. Make sure you use a valid email address so we can contact you if you are a lucky winner
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