The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth | Review

Book Synopsis

A twisty, compelling new novel about one woman’s complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in death…

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had envisioned for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her desperate attempts to win her over. And as a pillar in the community, an advocate for female refugees, and a woman happily married for decades, no one had a bad word to say about Diana…except Lucy.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana is dead, a suicide note found near her body claiming that she longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body.

But the autopsy finds no cancer.

It does find traces of poison, and evidence of suffocation.

Who could possibly want Diana dead? Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad she’s gone?

Fractured relationships and deep family secrets grow more compelling with every page in this twisty, captivating new novel from Sally Hepworth.

Praise for Sally Hepworth: 

“With jaw-dropping discoveries, and realistic consequences, this novel is not to be missed. Perfect for lovers of Big Little Lies.” —Library Journal, starred review

“Hepworth deftly keeps the reader turning pages and looking for clues, all the while building multilayered characters and carefully doling out bits of their motivations.” —Booklist

My Thoughts

If you enjoy a good family saga then you might want to read Sally Hepworth’s latest novel. This is my first time of reading a book by this author and I was not disappointed! “The Mother-in-Law” brings to life an incredible family account of greed and betrayal.

This book, set in Australia, has many of the components that make a really good story: from the mood and undercurrents to the very clever writing and the experience of deep family secrets and fractured relationships, not forgetting the feelings of hope, the fear, the utter desperation and failure.

“The Mother-in-Law” focuses on Lucy’s fractious relationship with her husband’s mother, Diana. Lucy has married Ollie, who is from a wealthy family, dominated by the matriarch.

From the very first chapter, I found myself immediately drawn in, following the grave news of Diana’s death, the circumstances of which were being treated as suspicious by the police. Her death had the appearance of suicide due to the presence of a note, but then became a matter slightly more deceiving. Diana, inclined to be rather aloof, left behind her husband Tom, son Ollie and daughter Nettie, not to mention her impressive estate…

This story is told from dual perspectives – Lucy’s and Diana’s – in the present with flashbacks to the past. Sally Hepworth has drawn a great character in Lucy, the outsider, trying hard to please her mother-in-law, to be accepted into her husband’s family, only to repeatedly fall short of the mark.

Sally Hepworth has also done a brilliant job with her portrayal of Diana and this really complements the story for me. Diana was not simply a typical mother-in-law mischief-maker; she was a person with many attributes – mother, wife, friend, daughter and do-gooder. Some of her drive was quite understandable which made it difficult for me to completely scorn her. As past and present merged it  became clear that nobody in the family really knew or understood each other.

One of my favourite aspects of this novel was the fluidity of Sally Hepworth’s writing. She managed to provide the details and twists of the plot without messing with the tone of the storyline. Each brilliantly executed chapter left me with a compelling need to read on.

For me, “The Mother-in-Law” was a tale of dramatic suspense but also one of deep reflection. At times, it made me dwell on my own family relationships and dynamics, especially those of the past. This novel definitely leaves you in a reflective mood, both during and after the story ended.

The book definitely has a strong mystery element, culminating in a thrilling and fulfilling ending. I really enjoyed it and I would certainly recommend it. This novel has left an impression on me and I will be reading more from Sally Hepworth. She has now become an author to watch out for!

Thanks to NetGalley, St Martin’s Press and the author, Sally Hepworth, for my free ARC of The Mother-in-Law in exchange for an honest review.

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

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