A book that everyone is talking about at the moment. In Her Wake reviewed by guest reviewer, Rachel Hall.
From the haunting prologue which poses numerous questions to the arrival of Bella ahead of the funeral of her mother Elaine, this is a story which effortlessly draws the reader in and never loosens its grip. As Bella returns to her childhood home and distant father in the wake of Elaine’s death her angst is palpable. With the passing of her mother, she has lost the anchor which rooted her to her life before a marriage to a domineering husband, David. Controlled by David and disconnected to her father, Henry, it is difficult not to be drawn into Bella’s plight.
Usually I find it difficult to connect with characters that allow themselves to be controlled and dictated to by other people in their lives. I feel my frustration growing and I want to shout, “can’t you see what is happening?”, but Bella has a vulnerability which is believable. As a child stifled by the love of a mother and driven into the arms of an older man in the form of university tutor, David, she has needed some form of rock to define her. It is easy to see how Bella has been bulldozed by the personalities around her and allowed decisions to be made for her, and yet the reader does not see Bella as a helpless woman, rather someone who has opted for the simplicity of an easy life in the shadow of an overprotective mother and suffocating husband.
As Elaine is buried and Henry struggles with a life bereft of meaning it is clear that Bella will not leave her childhood home untouched. The passing of her mother and unburdening of her father sets in motion a series of events. Like a car crash waiting to happen, Amanda Jennings allows her readers to experience every harrowing moment, shining an unflinching spotlight upon one woman’s journey as the Pandora’s box she dares to open plays out. Despite the shackles which have wound Bella so tightly to her old life, she has questions which need to be answered in order to gain a sense of contentment which she has longed for.
Questions adopt an urgency as Bella’s plight becomes the readers own and the secrets which are exposed wreak havoc on her emotions. Intoxicating and vivid, this will leave you battered and bruised, feeling punch-drunk but you will come out the other side and love every minute of it. In Her Wake raises questions about the memories and reflections on an old life as a woman seeks to make sense of the world she has long felt cast adrift from and with it bringing an understanding of Elaine, Henry and a childhood. Jennings cleverly contrasts the stability and routine which Bella has never questioned with all the associated upheaval that a search for the truth brings.
Quite simply, a sheer tour de force which needs to be experienced. Mesmerising and magnificent. Beautiful prose, breathtaking scenery and a powerful story of a passionate search for meaning. A phenomenal piece of brilliance by Amanda Jennings. Read, recommend and spread the word. In Her Wake has raised the bar for every psychological thriller going forward.