The Woman in the Wood is written in a quiet, soothing manner. It feels like an old friend is telling the reader a story while sitting by a fire with a good port. The style hides the depth of disturbing details that follow as many taboo subjects of the time are laid bare during the story’s telling.
I thought I was picking up a general, ‘Who done it?’ novel but, after reading it, understand the front cover’s claim that over 10 million copies have been sold. This masterful piece of storytelling deals with kidnap, family dysfunction, mental illness, rape and more. It takes the reader through the lives of twins between the age of fifteen and seventeen in post WW2 depression times. It touches on the community reaction to citizens who don’t quite fit the norm and shows the underlying evils that can happen in any society.
Each character is depicted in detail, giving the reader to chance to know and identify with them. As the story unfolds, social expectations are met and challenged by Maisey, a head strong young woman who will not give up nor give in to the horrors being placed before her. With elements of first love, developing friendships and the disappearance of one of the twins occurs, the reader genuinely feels the anxiety and hopelessness of the situations.
Lesley Pearse also cleverly provides small hints indicating the next hurdle that will need to be overcome. Each time a resolution seems achievable, the next layer of torment is revealed. Her title gives only an inkling of the diversity of action and characters that make this tale into something special and unnerving. The woman in the wood certainly is the glue to the many layers of the tale but, even as the unwilling heroine, she develops into someone different along with every other character.
Pearse’s choice of the name Deville for this woman is another clever psychological element that sits in the background as you see her interactions with others.
The story concludes with love and a smile, something the previous events made seem unlikely. This book, whilst challenging in aspects of its content, is a must-have in the detective/mystery section of your library.
Reviewed by Leanne Caune
Rating out of 10: 9
Released by: Penguin Australia
Release Date: July 2017
RRP: $49.99 hardback, $32.99 trade paperback, $12.99 eBook