EXCERPT: When she padded back to bed, something caught her eye in the building opposite. A red light in one of the windows. She tensed, her first thought that it was a fire, but as she looked longer, she realized it was a lamp draped in cherry coloured organza, which cast a warm glow. The various other windows in building were mostly dark, some strobing with the soft pulse of a television screen.
She moved closer to her own window, her nose almost pressing against the glass. It had begun to snow. The snowflakes floated down, the ones passing by the window illuminated red for a split second, lighting up like embers before continuing their descent, the black night flickering saffron, hellish.
Her eyes went back to the glowing room. It was a bedroom, dark except for the reddish glow. After some seconds she managed to make out a woman, bent over, her back to the window. She was wearing a pink silk slip, her milky thighs on full display. Mrs March cleared her throat, then looked over her own shoulder, as if someone had caught her spying. She trained her eyes back on the woman. What was she bending over? Mrs March could see the corner of a mattress, or a couch cushion. Leaning further, she bumped her forehead against the windowpane and, as if she had heard her, the woman in the pink slip turned around.
From Mrs March’s throat issued an unwilling sound, some tortured garble between a gasp and a scream. There was blood – so much blood – soaking the front of the woman’s slip and matting her hair and staining her hands – hands now pressed against the window to form bloody prints. Mrs March pushed herself away from the window in one jerky movement, falling backward onto the bed, her book crunching underneath her spine. She failed her arms toward George’s bedside table, shaking her hands free of the numbness creeping up to her fingers. She pulled the telephone to her and crept to the window. The cord went taut, halting her movement.
She stood there, the receiver pressed to her ear – the dial tone now a harsh beeping – as she looked out across the courtyard. The red glow was gone. The woman was gone, too.
ABOUT ‘MRS MARCH’: George March’s latest novel is a smash hit. None could be prouder than Mrs. March, his dutiful wife, who revels in his accolades and relishes the lifestyle and status his success brings.
A creature of routine and decorum, Mrs. March lives an exquisitely controlled existence on the Upper East Side. Every morning begins the same way, with a visit to her favourite patisserie to buy a loaf of olive bread, but her latest trip proves to be her last when she suffers an indignity from which she may never recover: an assumption by the shopkeeper that the protagonist in George March’s new book – a pathetic sex worker, more a figure of derision than desire – is based on Mrs. March.
One casual remark robs Mrs. March not only of her beloved olive bread but of the belief that she knew everything about her husband – and herself – sending her on an increasingly paranoid journey, one that starts within the pages of a book but may very well uncover both a killer and the long-buried secrets of Mrs. March’s past.
MY THOUGHTS: Mrs March by Virginia Feito is a strangely compelling and disturbing read.
We follow the journey of Mrs March as she descends from a lifestyle of privilege and status as the wife of a successful author, into the realms of paranoia and psychosis as she comes to believe that the main character in her husband’s latest book, an ugly prostitute named Johanna, is based on her.
Mrs March is very much a character driven book, and Mrs March is very much the main character. She appears to have no friends, merely acquaintances. She is terrified of her housekeeper. She maintains a very distant relationship with her son. And even the relationship between her and her husband is very formal. We don’t even know Mrs March’s first name until the final few sentences. She is quite childlike in her inability to take care of herself and her family.
The era Mrs March is set in isn’t specified, although I would guess it to be the late 1950s or early 1960s.
The book itself is a bit of an enigma. I had questions racing through my mind all the time I was reading. Some were answered. Some weren’t. The finale is quite spectacular, and for me was totally unexpected.
This is an outstanding debut novel.
#domesticdrama #historicalfiction #mentalhealth #mystery #psychologicalsuspense
THE AUTHOR: A native of Spain, Virginia Feito was raised in Madrid and Paris, and studied English and drama at Queen Mary University of London. She lives in Madrid, where she writes her fiction in English. (Amazon)
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to 4th Estate and William Collins via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Mrs March by Virginia Feito for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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