Title: The Second Woman
Author: Louise Mey
Translation: Louise Rogers Lalaurie
Genre: Psychological Thriller / Noir
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Publication Date: 2nd September 2021
Missing persons don’t always stay that way
Sandrine lives alone, rarely speaking to anyone other than her colleagues. She is resigned to her solitary life, until she sees on TV a man despairing for his wife who has mysteriously disappeared. Sandrine is drawn to him and eventually the two strike up a relationship.
When the man’s wife reappears, Sandrine is forced to confront the truth about him. Is he all she thought he was, or is he hiding an abusive and manipulative character? Who can she trust – the man she loves now, or the woman he loved first?
I’m always looking to read more translated fiction and I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to read The Second Woman which really is utterly brilliant. The story follows Sandrine, the titular ‘second woman’ who falls deeply in love with a man whose wife disappeared under strange circumstances. When the wife suddenly reappears with no memory, Sandrine has to re-examine everything she believes about the man she is building a life with.
I was totally gripped by The Second Woman from start to finish, unable to tear myself away from the almost unbearably tense narrative. Sandrine, as we first meet her, is a lonely woman consumed by self-loathing and a violent hatred towards her body. It is harrowing to read the depth of her sadness and the cruelty she inflicts on her own self esteem. Sandrine is a truly unreliable narrator in the sense that her perspective is so skewed by the way she feels about herself that as a reader you cannot really believe in her recollection. It is testament to the sensational writing that Sandrine’s insular narrative is so powerfully compelling. There is also a great deal of vivid, often macabre imagery peppered throughout that draws the reader fully into the unsettling story. The Second Woman almost feels like horror, or a very dark fairytale and actually put me in mind a little of Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ which is a compliment of the highest regard. The superb quality of the translation must also be noted, the writing flows beautifully. I really couldn’t recommend more highly this intense book which examines violence, coercive control and gaslighting with cutting intelligence. The Second Woman deftly maintains a taut and sinister sense of foreboding that will grip the reader in its clutches until the conclusion. Marvellously good.
Huge thanks to Tara McEvoy for the invitation to take part in the blog tour. I kindly received the ebook from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.