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Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Woman He Loved Before by Dorothy Koomson

Libby has a nice life with a gorgeous husband and a big home by the sea. But over time she is becoming more unsure if Jack has ever loved her ? and if he is over the death of Eve, his first wife. When fate intervenes in their relationship, Libby decides to find out all she can about the man she hastily married and the seemingly perfect Eve. Eventually Libby stumbles across some startling truths about Eve, and is soon unearthing more and more devastating family secrets. Frightened by what she finds and the damage it could cause, Libby starts to worry that she too will end up like the first woman Jack loved...Tense and moving, The Woman He Loved Before explores if the love you want is always the love you need ? or deserve.
Dorothy Koomson has done it again! I loved The Ice Cream Girls and was looking forward to her next book as soon as I had finished it. This book certainly does not disappoint.
This book is told primarily, from the point of view of Libby and her husband Jack. The book opens with a letter which says 'if you are reading this, then it is likely I'm dead, probably murdered'. Intrigue from page one!
The story is told, primarily, from two viewpoints - Jack and Libby. There has been a car accident and Libby is seriously hurt. The story flits between the present day, the accident and the treatment and stay in hospital, and the past, Libby and Jack's chance meeting at a car dealership. As the story progresses, we learn that Jack has been married before, to Eve, who died in suspicious circumstances, and the police reappear to ensure that the car accident was in fact an accident, caused by a driver distracted by a mobile phone and not, as the police suggest, Jack removing another wife from his life. Following many unanswered questions and an inquisitive dog wanting to get into the house's cellar, Libby discovers Eve's hidden diaries which hold many hidden secrets and also dangerous information which could lead to Libby risking her life ending in similar suspicious circumstances similar to Eve. However, there is a twist at the end of the book which is brilliant - Koomson manages to pull one out of the bag again, and this one I didn't see coming!
The story covers many themes within the book; a schoolgirl making a heartbreaking decision - should she stay at home with her mother's abusive partner or make her own way in the world, leaving school; her fight for survival finding employment and the lengths she goes to when money is tight; life as a lap dancer, life as an escort and the decision to leave that world behind and trust one man to spend her life with, and then a figure from her past coming back and making an appearance in the worse possible situation. There is also Jack, who married his first love, lost her and then found someone else, who he loved, but wasn't Eve, his first love and Libby, who found love but always felt there were three people in the marriage, the wife who had died always seemed to around.
I thought Libby was a very strong woman, she had to be to recover from her accident, to rebuild her life, however, when she discovered Eve's diaries, should she have read them - I think this is temptation that many of us would have difficulty in turning away from, however the secrets which were revealed would change life for everyone involved if she revealed all she had found out.
I absolutely loved this book and I would recommend it to all - however, it is one of those books, that once you have started, you are unable to put down, it is addictive and I wanted to keep reading to find out as much as possible. It is a great read to take away on holiday and get lost in!
Thank you to Sphere and Little Brown for sending me the book to review.

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