The Dream Wife by Louisa de Lange - book review
A freelance copywriter, de Lange bursts on to the scene this month with a riveting tale of domestic noir that packs a powerful psychological punch, and delivers such a devastating twist in the tail that readers will need to factor in a much-needed recovery period.
Dark, disturbing and devilishly clever, The Dream Wife propels you into the complex, labyrinthine mind of Annie Sullivan, stay-at-home wife to handsome, high flyer David and adoring mother of her precious two-year-old son Johnny.
Of course, all is not what it seems in this domestic idyll… David is a cruel control freak and bully, her deeply unpleasant mother-in-law Maggie is the coldest fish in the pond, and Annie is a prisoner in her own immaculately clean and orderly suburban home.
But Annie has dreams… dreams that take her into a world far removed from the despair and drudgery of her everyday life. But where do the fantasies that punctuate her dreams end, and a strange reality begin?
After an unhappy childhood with a fragile, neglectful mother who spent her days in bed, Annie saw the life she had always longed for when she met David… a family, a home, food on the table, warmth and, most of all, security.
But she now knows exactly what is expected of her in return, what tasks she must complete before he leaves for work, and what must be perfect for David before he gets back. Always on David’s side is his cold and disapproving mother, Maggie, and Annie’s feelings of hurt and anger must be pushed down, deep into the bottom of her mind, so nobody can see.
Her one source of comfort and sanity is her little boy Johnny. With this beloved child, she ‘feels the glow of being the most important person in his life.’ And her one source of escape is her dreams, a place where she can climb mountains and swim in the sea, and where she can meet people she would never normally be allowed to talk to.
But everything that happens in Annie’s dreams is starting to feel like ‘real life’ and now she is finally ready to fight back…
De Lange delivers a stunning debut, an unsettling, gripping and thought-provoking story that will warrant several re-reads of the last few chapters and is a prime candidate for book clubs seeking an intriguing and provocative thriller.
Saint or sinner, victim or perpetrator, Annie is the undoubted star of this tangled web of truth, lies and baffling dream sequences as we negotiate a rocky road paved with obfuscation and shocking revelations, only to be slapped neatly in the face as we reach the final, unexpected destination.
A masterful first novel from an impressive new talent…
(Orion, paperback, £8.99)