REVIEW: The Younger Wife, Sally Hepworth

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REVIEW

Australia… are you okay? Because according to The Younger Wife, you are not.

I jest, but seriously, it seems like every piece of media Australia puts out is pretty chaotic. Do I just listen to too much Casefile? Or am I just picking up every domestic thriller this country chucks my way? But in the case of The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth, it was worth it.

Hepworth, like her countrywoman Liane Moriarty, is a master of domestic drama and crafting female characters with complicated inner lives. The central characters of The Younger Wife are the Aston sisters, Tully and Rachel. They’re dealing with their father’s sudden announcement that he’s divorcing their mother and marrying his new, and you guessed it, younger-than-them girlfriend. What’s the deal with Heather? Is she after money or something more sinister? And what to make of their mother who hid a lot of cash before going into a care home – was it a ‘senior moment’, or a getaway fund?

So clearly the tension is high here. And yet the strongest part of the novel isn’t the central is-she-a-gold-digger question about the titular wife, but actually the development of Tully and Rachel. Hepworth writes them both in really interesting ways, exploring mental health and trauma that both sisters share as they attempt to work through it. I won’t spoil too much, but one of the sisters deals with kleptomania, and Hepworth approaches the issue sensitively rather than playing it for laughs. I wish more books dared to explore the “uglier” manifestations of mental illness more.

Although like Moriarty’s most recent novel, this book is a little too obsessed with processing Covid-19. I know Australia in particular has had a rough time of it, but there’s something about the way these characters talk about lockdowns and mask-wearing that just… rubbed me the wrong way, I guess? Maybe for the same reason I’ve had to take a break from some of my favourite Aussie podcasts because they keep ranting about ~the media~. Basically… just because you have a platform to process The Collective Trauma (TM) doesn’t necessarily mean you have to. At least not now.

RATING: 4/5 stars

Thanks NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for the ARC. THE YOUNGER WIFE is out in the UK on 7 April 2022.

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