I received a copy of this title, via netgalley.com, for review purposes.
Grace Chapman has what most women want, the perfect life. Her husband, Ted, is a renowned literary author, her daughter has grown up and flown the nest without incident and she is regular in the society pages of upscale magazines, featuring the perfect home to go with the perfect marriage. However, not everything is as perfect as it seems. Ted is controlling, her life is full of shallow acquaintances and lacks genuine friendship. The only thing that keeps her busy is her charity work. So much so, that when she recruits a new PA for Ted, she takes up the new employee's offer of assistance in her own day to day life. This is something she may live to regret...
I have been reading Jane Green novels for many years, having a nice collection on display in Bleach House Library. So, when I spotted this title, I looked forward to diving in for some reliable, quality female fiction. The narrative is not unique, there are many books, movies and even songs about women who are blindsided by 'the other woman' and while we all say that we would never miss the warning signs, it seems that a lot of women still do. Narrative aside, the first chapter had me ready for a character based novel, with Ted showing narcissistic tendencies and Grace playing the meek, bored, wealthy housewife that can be seen on reality TV worldwide. Hint: A wardrobe to die for does not a perfect marriage make.
I had problems with the story from the early stages of the book. The opening chapters led me to believe that Ted was a dangerous man, violent and possibly ready to inflict some serious damage to the downtrodden Grace. However, from the second chapter, it became apparent that the biggest threat he posed was the slamming of a door or some silent treatment. Likewise, the opening scenes imply that Grace lives in terror, has no support and needs our sympathy. I have felt more sympathy for Wicked Stepmothers in Disney Fairy tales. She feels the need for 'help' in the house, which includes cleaners and now this PA, Beth. She needs help sorting out her pantry (such a chore), sorting through her collection of shoes and rain jackets at the back door (which should take about 30 minutes, max) and paying the household bills (so exhausting, as we all know). There is a constant pandering to the diva-ish author husband, who remains mostly in his garden office, and then the offloading of unwanted designer clothes to the staff, before heading off to a homeless shelter to cook them fancy meals. I am not totally convinced that the residents of the shelter wouldn't rather have more basic meals and a handful of the discarded clothes. Grace has a near meltdown when a charity lunch she has 'organised' has a hiccup (she left most of the organising to Beth, and therefore it went belly up) and the guests have to eat off paper plates and stand up, rather than sitting on colour co-ordinated chairs while slicing into fancy food on china plates The shallowness of the characters makes it very hard to identify with them and makes for very uncomfortable reading. When, later in the book, Grace falls asleep on a bench in a fancy London park (wearing cashmere, no less), she compares herself to the homeless that she had helped feed. Seriously???
The story goes from odd to plain bizarre when Beth's true intent becomes obvious to Grace (about six months after any sane person would have noticed) and the socialite flees a psychological exam in a hospital, barefoot, and heads to England. No one thinks to come and find her, her grown up daughter included, and one minute her funds are unavailable, next they are back again. Huge plot holes, an obvious love interest and a recipe at the end of almost all chapters (but not consistent, just making me hungry at inappropriate moments) make for a weird experience. Had it been written as a debut, I would say that it need major editing, more believable characters and a better storyline. I was very disappointed. It won't put me off Jane Green's novels, as I am a big fan of her work. I hope this was a one off blip and I can brush it under the carpet (with no help from cleaners).
Saving Grace is published by Pan and is available in paperback and ebook format