The Other Mrs. Walker
Mary Paulson-Ellis Pages: 435 Published: 2016
The book: It’s 2011 and Margaret Penny, a middle-aged woman, returns penniless to Edinburgh. She’s been away more than ten years. With no money and little welcome from her aging and combative mother, Margaret must find some sort of employment. She gets a job working for the Office of Lost People. Margaret’s first task: confirm the identity and find the family of an old woman who died in her apartment a few days before Margaret arrived in Edinburgh. Will Margaret be able to work out the identity of the unknown woman and find her family? Will her relationship with her mother improve?
You might like it because: It’s an intriguing story of family secrets, tragedy, and betrayal. Paulson-Ellis masterfully creates an atmosphere of suspense, and keeps the reader guessing about who is who, who did what, and when the main character will herself work it all out.
What did other people say?
“An ambitious if unwieldy and sometimes overwritten debut, …this unsentimental, labyrinthine tale is both intriguing and atmospheric.” – The Guardian(UK)
“What convinces are her descriptions of cities in the winter, her portrayals of women who do each other down when they should be shoring each other up, her spiky prose style that won’t comfort you in a story that maybe stresses too much darkness.”
–The Sunday Herald (Scotland)
How quickly will you get into the book? The prologue (two pages) is intriguing and made me want to read on to find out what had happened and would happen. The author keeps the suspense going right till the end, so I kept reading and reading.
You might not like it because: You’ll probably be hard pressed to find a character you like in this story; it’s full of flawed, selfish, and nasty people.
In the end, there are things left unresolved that a reader may find unsatisfactory, and in some cases they may feel there’s a lack of appropriate retribution.
What might you read next?
Try reading a book where a living person is found whose identity is unknown. Pick up I Found You, by Lisa Jewel.
Or, read Fall On Your Knees, by Ann-Marie MacDonald, another story of family secrets that spans several generations. This time we start out in Canada.
Alternatively, stay in Scotland with Crow Road, by Iain Banks, where a nephew searches for his uncle who has disappeared.