Friday, March 9, 2018

Audiobook Review: The English Wife by Lauren Willig

Pub. Date:Jan. 9, 2018
Publisher:MacMillan Audio
Narrator:Barrie Kreinik
Length:14 hrs 52 min

The English Wife is a historical drama set during the Gilded Age in London and upstate New York. While it is not a romance, there are some romantic elements. However, your main focus is going to be on the drama and mystery that unfolds as you read or listen.

There is a split narration/POV of this story for the past and present. Half of the story is following Bayard and Annabelle Van Duyvil from their meeting to murder, and the other half follows Janie Van Duyvil as she attempts to find out the truth about the mysterious deaths. There are quite a number of distasteful secondary characters that meet and mingle through the Van Duyvil lives, and they gave the story a darker theme that really made this into a drama instead of a run-of-the-mill historical fiction.

This story switches timelines on the regular - between 1899 and 1894 moving forward. This didn't work very well in the audio format honestly. I found it hard to follow if you weren't paying meticulous attention. It probably wouldn't have been as difficult reading print, because you could flip back and forth and would've seen the date indicators at the beginning of each chapter. 

The difficulty following the timeline was also complicated by the vast array of characters, and I thought several times that I wouldn't be able to finish this one in audio. However, I was extremely wrapped up in the drama and mystery and I really wanted to find out what happened. So I stuck it out. 

Annabelle Van Duyvil was a fascinating and tragic character. I thought that when she met Bay, things were going to go well for her and they were going to have a great love story that was tragically cut short with their murders. Unfortunately, as much as I liked Annabelle, I hated Bay equally as much. I couldn't believe the situation that faced Annabelle throughout her marriage, yet she selflessly continued forward making unreasonable sacrifices to both protect her husband and make him happy. The marriage was extremely unequal in my eyes. And when David came along, I just about lost my mind. I hated hated hated Bay for that whole year. There was some character confusion for Annabelle with me and I got a bit frustrated with the Annabelle/Georgie aspect - is she or isn't she and just what is the freaking story?

I can say that the mystery was well done and I was not able to guess the culprit. There were a number of twists and turns that kept me guessing, and the author was good at using misdirection. Because I was more invested in uncovering the secrets, it made me less interested in the "present day" aspect of the story. So during those chapters, I found myself zoning out and chasing the next chapter where a little more of the past would be revealed. It made the book seem unnecessarily long.

If you like historical family dramas and murder mysteries, then I would say to give this book a shot. I think it may be easier to follow in print format so I would recommend going that route.  That being said, the narrator did a fabulous job. She brought the characters to life and I liked her performance. She was able to affect a male character as well as a female, and she did a great job with the children. I just wish the story itself had been easier to follow in this format.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book that I received from the publisher, MacMillan Audio.

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