The words ‘domestic thriller of the year’ are bandied around all too often these days. A bit like ‘the next Gone Girl.‘ Which In Her Wake obviously isn’t, the premise being entirely different. But ‘psychological thriller of the year’? Quite probably.
It’s quite hard to review In Her Wake without revealing some fairly major spoilers. When Bella Campbell returns home to her childhood home for her mother’s funeral, she discovers that her life is not what she thought. The revelations lead her to Cornwall, where she discovers the truth about herself and her family but also her very identity.
Growing up, Bella’s mother was controlling, whilst her father was distant, and Bella herself has grown up to be a fearful person, who prefers to relinquish control. She has found this in her older husband David, her former lecturer, whose dedicated care reveals a stiflingly controlling undertone, from making sure her seatbelt is done up, to reminding her to wear a sweater, and above all, to hammer home that she can’t cope without him. Discovering more about her her past allows Bella to reassess how she allows people to treat her.
This very brief summary doesn’t even vaguely do this wonderful book justice, which I hope won’t be off-putting. It’s a beautifully told story, just as emotionally compelling as it is a gripping page-turner. Though the twists and turns come thick and fast, the heart of the story remains Bella’s own journey of personal discovery and the shocks feel realistically woven in, rather than gratuitous. The pace veers from pulse-racing to a gentler one, and it is these warm, emotionally affecting moments which draw the book above your average psychological thriller. One scene involving risotto has particularly stayed with me.
The story comes full circle as developments in Bella’s life help her find some form of empathy to those who hurt her, bringing a satisfying resolution to a book which puts the reader through the wringer just as much as it does the protagonist. This is a haunting, gripping and completely unputdownable thriller, with just as much heart as it has pace.
In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings is out now, published by Orenda Books