Review – The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

By | June 28, 2014

In the early hours of an April morning, Maya stumbles into the path of an oncoming bus.  A tragic accident? Or suicide?  Her grief-stricken husband, Adrian, is determined to find out.

Maya had a job she enjoyed; she had friends. They’d been in love. She even got on with his two previous wives and their children. In fact, they’d all been one big happy family.

But before long Adrian starts to identify the dark cracks in his perfect life.  Because everyone has secrets.  And secrets have consequences.  Some of which can be devastating.

I’m really overcome with admiration for Lisa Jewell.  She’s always been a great writer, enjoyable to read, but in the early days I think it’s fair to say that her novels could have been classified as chick lit (although I know she hates the term) – very good and well-written, but maybe a tad lighter and slightly more fluffy. But then came The Making Of Us, a wonderful story about damaged people, and she began to move into a different league.  Before I Met You was quite wonderful, with its deft handling of secrets from the past: then came The House We Grew Up In, with its complex and beautifully drawn characters and effortless handling of enormous issues.  And now we have The Third Wife, to be published by Century on 3 July, and what a treat you have to come – this wonderful book totally blew me away, and confirms Lisa Jewell as one of my very favourite writers and whose books now make me quiver with anticipation.

At the centre of this book is Adrian – three times married, with a sprawling family including two ex-wives and five children ranging from toddler to adult. With Adrian in the centre, the family plays together as one, looking after each other, sharing holidays and social occasions.  But when his third wife Maya is killed by falling under a bus, it turns out that the extended family is not quite as perfect as it might have appeared. 

Adrian is a wonderfully complex character.  Some say he is a love addict but I preferred his own description – as a moth, when he really should have been a cow, eating the same grass all day long, never thinking about the grass over there, just waiting for more grass to grow. Every character in this wonderful book has tremendous depth – from the vividly drawn wives to baby Beau and Billie the cat. There are mysteries and discoveries to be made along the way, but overall the whole book is a quite magnificent web of characterisation and human interactions. And it’s a book that makes you care deeply about all its many characters.

I really didn’t want this book to end – I now feel quite bereft without Adrian and his extended family, despite all their foibles and faults.  If you enjoyed any of the author’s last three books – or if you’re a fan of the best of Rowan Coleman or Jojo Moyes – then you’re going to love this book as much as I did.  I just wonder what her next book will bring – Lisa Jewell, this book was absolute perfection.

My thanks to netgalley for my advance reading e-copy.  The Third Wife will be published by Century on 3 July.

Lisa Jewell was born and raised in north London, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. Her first novel, Ralph’s Party, was the bestselling debut of 1999. She is also the author of Thirtynothing, One-Hit Wonder, Vince & Joy, A Friend of the Family, 31 Dream Street, The Truth About Melody Browne and After the Party, all of which have been Sunday Times bestsellers.

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